In the space of a few hours on Tuesday night, President Trump pardoned mercenaries convicted of war crimes and Republican congressmen convicted of fraud and campaign finance violations, threatened to sink a $2.3 trillion omnibus package that includes a popular coronavirus relief bill, and called the No. 2 Senate Republican, John Thune (R-S.D.), a “RINO” whose “political career” is “over!!!”
Republicans in the Senate so quickly forget. Right now they would be down 8 seats without my backing them in the last Election. RINO John Thune, “Mitch’s boy”, should just let it play out. South Dakota doesn’t like weakness. He will be primaried in 2022, political career over!!!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 23, 2020
Trump did not explain why he is angry at Thune, but in the final days of his presidency, Axios reported early Tuesday, Trump “is turning bitterly on virtually every person around him, griping about anyone who refuses to indulge conspiracy theories or hopeless bids to overturn the election.” On Monday, Thune shot down a plan by Trump and his House GOP allies to object to President-elect Joe Biden’s win during a Jan. 6 joint session of Congress, saying “it’s just not going anywhere” and “in the Senate it would go down like a shot dog.”
Thune “was first elected to the Senate in 2004 and isn’t seen as a vulnerable candidate in the 2022 election,” the Sioux Falls Argus Leader reports. “He ran unopposed in his 2010 reelection bid and as of Sept. 30, he had more than $13 million in his campaign fund.” One of the few Republicans in the state with the stature to primary Thune, Gov. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.), quickly took herself out of the running.
.@johnthune is a friend of mine, and I will not be challenging him. I’m honored to be Governor of South Dakota and will ask the people to give me an opportunity to continue serving them as Governor in 2022.
— Kristi Noem (@KristiNoem) December 23, 2020
Many congressional Republicans have shied away from recognizing Biden’s victory so as not to enrage Trump and draw career-limiting mean tweets. Trump is now testing that theory, betting he will still dominate the GOP in two years and have more sway in South Dakota than its powerful senior senator.
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