Sen. John Thune is criticizing Republican activists and party leaders for engaging in “cancel culture” by rushing to censure GOP senators who found former President Donald Trump guilty of inciting an insurrection.
In his first interview since he voted to acquit Trump, the Senate’s No. 2 Republican on Thursday defended fellow Republicans who sided with Democrats on the “vote of conscience” and warned against shutting out dissenting voices in the party.
“There was a strong case made,” Thune said of the 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’s remarks were his first explaining his vote in Trump’s trial and assessing the turbulent GOP politics the former president has left behind. Thune, who is facing reelection next year in deeply conservative South Dakota, is among several establishment Republicans grappling with how to reclaim control of a party dominated by Trump and his most ardent supporters for years.
The senator only rarely criticized Trump while he was in office. But he called the former president’s actions after the election “inexcusable” and accused him of undermining the peaceful transfer of power.
Still, Thune last week sided with most Republican senators and GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell in voting to acquit anyway. Thune and others argued that Trump could not be impeached because he was already out of office. Thune said after his vote that he was concerned with the idea of “punishing a private citizen with the sole intent of disqualifying him from holding future office.” Democrats fell 10 votes short of the 67 need to convict.