Feb 19, 2021 - Politics & Policy

GOP Sen. Thune accuses Trump allies of "cancel culture" after impeachment vote

Picture of John Thune speaking into a microphone while Mitch McConnell stands in the background
Photo: Rod Lamkey-Pool/Getty Images

Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) on Thursday accused Trump allies of engaging in "cancel culture" by rushing to censure Republican lawmakers for voting to impeach or convict former President Trump for his role in the Capitol insurrection.

Why it matters: The comments by Thune, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, underscore the growing divide between mainstream GOP leaders and Trump supporters, who still dominate the party's base. Thune called Trump's actions after the election "inexcusable" in an interview with the AP.

The big picture: While Thune rarely criticized Trump while he was in office, Trump called him a RINO — meaning "Republican In Name Only — after he and Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell urged senators not to vote against the certification of Joe Biden's Electoral College victory.

  • Trump also endorsed a primary challenge against Thune, who is up for re-election in 2022.
  • The former president has responded similarly to criticisms by McConnell, attacking him in highly personal terms and claiming GOP senators "will not win again" if they support the Republican leader.

What he's saying: "There was a strong case made," Thune told AP in an interview, referring to Democrats' impeachment presentation. "People could come to different conclusions. If we’re going to criticize the media and the left for cancel culture, we can’t be doing that ourselves."

  • Thune added that he would be taking steps to assist candidates "who don’t go off and talk about conspiracies and that sort of thing."
  • "At the grassroots level, there’s a lot of people who want to see Trump-like candidates ... But I think we’re going to be looking for candidates that are electable."
  • Thune also praised House GOP Conference chair Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), who faced censure from the Wyoming GOP and calls from Republican lawmakers to have her removed from leadership after her impeachment vote.

Go deeper: Republicans face party punishment back home for questioning Trump's role in Capitol attack

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