Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., blasted members of his party for censuring Republican lawmakers who voted against President Trump during Democrats’ second impeachment attempt, accusing them of engaging in “cancel culture.”
Thune, who voted to acquit Trump, said he understood why some Republicans voted to convict Trump.
“There was a strong case made,” he said. “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.”
Several of the seven senators who voted in support of conviction have faced a reckoning in their home states, with the respective GOP chapters and legislatures condemning the action.
Sens. Bill Cassidy, R-La., and Richard Burr, R-N.C., were particularly brutalized since they had earlier voted with GOP colleagues to say that the trial itself was invalid since the Senate lacked jurisdiction to try a private citizen for high crimes and misdemeanors.
Trump and his allies also have lashed out at Republicans who sided against him.
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., has been leading an effort to oust House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo. for her vote to impeach Trump—one of only 10 House Republicans to do so.
Trump released a statement this week slamming Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell as a “dour, sullen, and unsmiling political hack”—although the attack came after McConnell had already betrayed Trump and his supporters with a savage rebuke on the Senate floor, followed by an op-ed.
“He will never do what needs to be done, or what is right for our Country. Where necessary and appropriate, I will back primary rivals who espouse Making America Great Again and our policy of America First. We want brilliant, strong, thoughtful, and compassionate leadership,” Trump said.
Thune said pro-Trump primary challenges would be welcomed, as long as the candidates “don’t go off and talk about conspiracies and that sort of thing.”
Just seven Republican senators joined all 50 Democrats in voting to convict Trump, while Thune, McConnell, and 41 other Republicans voted to acquit.
Trump remains incredibly popular among the Republican base and indicated last week for the first time that he plans to exert his influence to control the Republican Party’s agenda.
“It will only get worse… We know our America First agenda is a winner, not McConnell’s Beltway First agenda or Biden’s America Last,” Trump said.
“The Republican Party can never again be respected or strong with political ‘leaders’ like Sen. Mitch McConnell at its helm,” he continued. “He is destroying the Republican side of the Senate, and in so doing, seriously hurting our Country…He doesn’t have what it takes, never did, and never will.”