Utah Sen. Mitt Romney defended a Republican colleague whom former President Donald Trump called a “jerk” Monday for saying the 2020 election was fair in a weekend interview.

In an interview with ABC “This Week,” Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., told host George Stephanopoulos that the election was “fair, as fair as we’ve seen” despite Trump and his supporters continuing to baselessly claim it was rife with fraud and stolen.

“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,” Rounds said.

The senator said it’s important for the Republican Party to convey that message to the public.

“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.”

Romney has repeatedly called on Republicans to tell Americans the truth about the “big lie.”

“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.

In response to Rounds’ comments, Trump put out a statement Monday saying, “‘Senator’ Mike Rounds of the Great State of South Dakota just went woke on the Fraudulent Presidential Election of 2020. 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, who had endorsed Rounds in 2020, went on to say, “Even though his election will not be coming up for 5 years, I will never endorse this jerk again.”

Later Monday, Rounds said in a statement he is disappointed but not surprised by Trump’s reaction.

“However, the facts remain the same. I stand by my statement. The former president lost the 2020 election. This isn’t new information. If we’re being honest, there was no evidence of widespread fraud that would have altered the results of the election.”

Rounds added that former Vice President Mike Pence stood his ground, acknowledged Biden’s victory and acted with integrity.

“It’s time the rest of us do the same,” he said.

In the ABC News interview, Rounds said Trump’s fate should be left in the hands of the Department of Justice and the federal courts over his role in allegedly inciting the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol insurrection.

“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 occurred,” he said. “The courts are the appropriate place where those questions should be answered.”

Americans ignore lessons of Jan. 6 attack on U.S. Capitol at their own peril, Sen. Mitt Romney says
What have we learned? Lessons from the Jan. 6 insurrection

Rounds voted to certify the election of Biden and voted against convicting Trump in the Senate impeachment trial for his alleged role in the deadly incursion. He was among the few Republicans who suggested the former president could be prosecuted under federal law regarding rebellion and insurrection.

Romney, who was among seven Republicans who voted to convict Trump of inciting an insurrection, directly blamed Trump for what transpired on Jan. 6, 2021.

Correction: An earlier version incorrectly stated Sen. Mike Rounds said he was surprised by former President Donald Trump’s negative comments about him. Rounds actually said he was not surprised by the remarks.