Former President Donald Trump retaliated Monday against Sen. Mike Rounds, calling him a “RINO” and “jerk,” a day after the South Dakota Republican stood by the 2020 presidential election results.
Rounds later responded to Trump’s attack, observing that then–Vice President Mike Pence had behaved appropriately on Jan. 6, 2021, overseeing the congressional certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s victory in the Nov. 3, 2020, presidential election after a delay of several hours as Trump backers stormed the Capitol complex.
“It’s time the rest of us,” said Rounds, “do the same.”
In an interview on Sunday with the ABC News program “This Week,” Rounds recited to host George Stephanopoulos the fact that Trump had lost the 2020 election to Democrat Joe Biden.
“Rounds expresses concern that Republican voters, persuaded by Trump and allies that U.S. elections can be stolen, will quit turning out to cast their ballots.”
“We simply did not win the election, as Republicans, for the presidency,” Rounds said. “And if we simply look back and tell our people ‘Don’t vote because there’s cheating going on,’ then we’re going to put ourselves in a huge disadvantage.”
Trump, who has repeatedly claimed massive fraud cost him his re-election bid, blasted Rounds by saying the conservative second-term senator and former South Dakota governor had gone “woke.”
“ ‘Senator’ Mike Rounds of the Great State of South Dakota just went woke on the Fraudulent Presidential Election of 2020,” the 45th president said in a statement released by his Save America PAC. “He made a statement this weekend on ABC Fake News, that despite massive evidence to the contrary, including much of it pouring in from Wisconsin, Georgia, Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and other states, he found the election to be ok—just fine. Is he crazy or just stupid?”
Trump then expressed regret for endorsing Rounds in the senator’s 2020 re-election effort, saying the senator “thinks he has time.”
“Even though his election will not be coming up for 5 years, I will never endorse this jerk again,” he added.
Trump, who himself has switched parties several times while Rounds has been a Republican throughout his career, went on to accuse Rounds of being a “RINO” — Republican in name only — who is “allowing Democrats to destroy” the U.S.
From the archives (May 2021): ‘Big Lie’ allegiance dividing Republicans into Trump loyalists and a Cheney-Romney-Kinzinger wing
“Our Borders, our Military, our Economy, Inflation, the horrible handling of the China Virus and Afghanistan, and rampant crime throughout our Democrat-run cities are ripping our Country apart,” he said. “We are a laughingstock throughout the world when we were respected and even feared just 1 year ago. There were no thoughts of Russia with Ukraine, China with Taiwan, Iran with nuclear weapons, or North Korea with nasty statements.”
Trump repeated his vow to never endorse Rounds again, saying, “The Radical Left Democrats and RINOS, like ‘Senator’ Mike Rounds, do not make it easy for our Country to succeed. He is a weak and ineffective leader, and I hereby firmly pledge that he will never receive my Endorsement again!”
Trump’s comments come as several of his allies face an investigation from the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, which the former president has downplayed as a peaceful protest.
From the archives (July 2021): Trump and allies work to rebrand Jan. 6 rioters as patriots, heroes and martyrs
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have labeled the riot an “insurrection,” while Trump claims the “real” insurrection took place during the 2020 election.
Rounds, who voted to certify the election results and voted against convicting Trump after the House impeached him on a count of inciting insurrection, admitted Sunday the former president can be prosecuted “if there’s evidence there” of wrongdoing by him in connection with the riot.
“What happens with a president is that he has the shield of office, which in many cases prohibits or limits the ability of the courts to address issues surrounding that. What an impeachment does is take away that shield. President Trump was no longer president at the time that that [impeachment trial] occurred,” Rounds said. “The courts are the appropriate place where those questions should be answered.”
Mitt Romney defended his fellow Senate Republican in a Monday statement, saying that speaking the truth — that “Joe Biden won the election” — is an imperative.