The South Dakota lawmaker had seemingly offended the former president by saying the 2020 election was “as fair as we have seen” and didn’t back down after he attacked
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Mitt Romney, Mike Rounds and Donald Trump
Credit: Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call; Andrew Harnik-Pool/Getty; Jamie Squire/Getty

Utah Sen. Mitt Romney is defending fellow Republican Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota after Donald Trump attacked him for saying the 2020 election was "as fair as we have seen" and that the GOP "simply did not win the election … for the presidency."

Rounds appeared on ABC News' This Week on Sunday, telling host George Stephanopoulos that claims of widespread election fraud in 2020 were thoroughly investigated but unsubstantiated.

"As a part of our due diligence, we looked at over 60 different accusations made in multiple states," Rounds said. "While there were some irregularities, there were none of the irregularities which would have risen to the point where they would have changed the vote outcome in a single state."

The former president, whose persistent, baseless claims of a stolen election endure despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, was not happy with the senator, calling him a "jerk," "RINO" — a Republican in name only — as well as a "weak and ineffective leader."

"Mike Rounds of the Great State of South Dakota just went woke," Trump said in a statement. Is he crazy or just stupid?"

Romney, a Trump critic and frequent target himself, posted a tweet in support of Rounds and mentioned others — including Republican governors like Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, Larry Hogan of Maryland, fellow GOP senators and more — who agree with his assessment that Joe Biden's 2020 presidential victory was sound.

"Mike Rounds speaks truth knowing that our Republic depends upon it. Republicans like Govs Hutchinson, Baker & Hogan; Sens McConnell, Thune & Johnson; Bush & Cheney; plus 60+ courts and even the right-leaning Wall Street Journal editorial page agree: Joe Biden won the election," Romney tweeted Monday.

"I'm disappointed but not surprised by the former president's reaction. However, the facts remain the same. I stand by my statement. The former president lost the 2020 election," he wrote on Twitter.

The South Dakota lawmaker, who isn't up for reelection until 2026, told NBC News, "As Republicans, we owe it to tell the truth. And I think integrity matters. And so, in my opinion, if we want to keep the confidence of our supporters and our voters, then we have to be honest with them. We have to be forthright and be straightforward."

Rounds' fellow South Dakotan Republican, Sen. John Thune, who just announced he'll run for a fourth term this year, has also felt Trump's wrath for saying his false claims of a stolen election would "go down like a shot dog."

To Rounds, Thune said Monday, "Welcome to the club."