John Thune (pictured with his wife) is the No. 2 Republican senator behind Minority Leader Mitch McConnell
The South Dakota lawmaker, told Fox that he would ‘welcome’ the ex-president’s help to win back his party’s control of Congress in the upcoming midterms — but added that discussing the conspiracy theory over the presidential race could set them back.
Hours later Trump landed in Arizona to host his first rally of the year, where he again aired his grievances about November 2020.
Thune is the No. 2 Republican senator behind Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and is widely seen as his likely successor to lead the Senate GOP.
‘To the degree that President Trump can be helpful, can contribute to’ winning back the Senate majority, ‘we welcome that,’ Thune said.
‘But I think any time we’re talking about the 2020 election and rehashing that, it takes our eyes off the ultimate prize.’
He claimed the key to a successful election was moving forward — taking a veiled jab at Trump and his Congressional allies still fighting a two-year squabble over who won the White House.
‘I think most Republican senators understand that, in order for us to be successful as a country, that we have to get the majority back in the Senate, and that means focusing on the future not the past,’ Thune said.
‘We welcome the former president’s support of that, but would hope that he would play a constructive role and contribute to helping us win the majority back in 2022.’
McConnell’s deputy conceded that Trump still ‘attempts’ to influence the Republican Party but that his election fraud complains come second to the Senate GOP’s priority of holding Biden accountable.
‘President Trump still has a tremendous following among our supporters across the country and, you know, exercises that influence, or at least attempts to, on a daily basis,’ Thune said.
‘But I think ultimately for us as Republican senators our job right now is to try to get the majority back in 2022 and provide that check and balance against this crazy Biden administration agenda.’
Hours later Trump landed in Florence, Arizona, where he told a charged-up crowd that the state ‘got taken away’ from him in the last presidential race.
He lost the Grand Canyon state to Biden by a razor thin margin of 49.4 percent to 49.1 percent.
‘Last year we had a rigged election and the proof is all over the place,’ the former president said.
He urged Trump to stop bringing up the 2020 election hours before the ex-president railed against it at his rally
The Republican Party has been sharply divided by views over the integrity of the last presidential race
He then referenced the monicker Democrats and the media assigned to his 2020 conspiracy theories.
‘We have a lot of proof and they know it’s proof. They always talk about the Big Lie — they’re the Big Lie,’ Trump said.
‘The Big Lie is a lot of bulls**t, that’s what it is.’
After some speculation that he might retire at the end of this year, Thune announced last week that he would seek another six-year term in the Senate.
Part of his growing weariness with his office had to do with Trump’s iron grip on his caucus, the New York Times had reported.
‘I’ve always promised that I would do the work, even when it was hard, uncomfortable, or unpopular,’ Thune said in a statement on Twitter.
Trump called for Thune to face a primary challenge in late 2020 after the senator said his election fraud claims would go down ‘like a shot dog.’
‘He will be primaried in 2022, political career over!!!’ Trump had said.
He also derided Thune as a RINO, or Republican In Name Only, an oft-used insult by the former president for GOP lawmakers who disagree with him.