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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

Go deeper

Trump exile government takes shape

Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

From campaigns to conventions, Donald Trump and his administration are reemerging in exile.

What's happening: Trump family members are weighing political races, a slate of former Cabinet members are set to speak at next week's CPAC meeting, and after laying low through his impeachment trial, Trump is vowing to battle Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to shape the GOP’s field for the 2022 midterms.

Ivanka Trump offers support for Rubio re-election despite primary speculation

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Ivanka Trump has offered her support to Sen. Marco Rubio's (R-Fla.) 2022 re-election — dulling speculation that she may challenge the senator in Florida's 2022 Republican Senate primary.

What they're saying: "Marco and Ivanka did speak a few weeks ago. Ivanka offered her support for Marco’s re-election and they had a great talk," Rubio spokesperson Nick Iacovella tells Axios.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Shooting at Michigan high school leaves 3 dead, 8 wounded

Police cars restrict access to Oxford High School following the shooting in Oxford, Michigan, on Tuesday. Photo: Matthew Hatcher/Getty Images)

A 15-year-old sophomore was arrested after a shooting at a Michigan high school that left three people dead and eight others wounded Wednesday, according to the Oakland County Sheriff's Office.

The latest: Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said at a briefing Tuesday night that the suspect's father had on Friday bought the 9mm Sig Sauer pistol investigators believe was used in the shooting at Oxford High School. Authorities released the names of the victims late Tuesday.