Make no mistake: Russia is not our friend. Our poor relations are a direct result of their continued destabilizing behavior throughout the world. It is clear that Russia attempted to directly influence the 2016 election process. There is value in seeking to improve relations with Russia, but the U.S. must make clear that their irresponsible behavior on the world stage will not be tolerated [Senator Mike Rounds, statement, 2018.07.16].
Senator Rounds appears to be responding to the claims by both Putin and Trump that Russia not only didn’t interfere in our 2016 election but had no imaginable motivation for doing so:
Путин: Президент Трамп в очередной раз затронул тему так называемого российского вмешательства в избирательные процессы в Соединённых Штатах. Мне пришлось повторить то, что говорил уже неоднократно, в том числе и на личной встрече с Президентом: Российское государство никогда не вмешивалось и не собирается вмешиваться в американские внутренние дела, в том числе выборные процессы. Какие-либо конкретные материалы, если они будут представлены, мы готовы вместе рассматривать – например, в рамках рабочей группы по кибербезопасности, о создании которой мы говорили с Президентом ещё на встрече в Гамбурге.
Putin: Once again, President Trump mentioned the issue of the so-called interference of Russia with the American elections, and I had to reiterate things I said several times, including during our personal contacts, that the Russian state has never interfered and is not going to interfere into internal American affairs, including election process. Any specific material — if such things arise — we are ready to analyze together. For instance, we can analyze them through the joint working group on cyber-security, the establishment of which we discussed during our previous contacts.
…Trump: My people came to me, Dan Coates came to me and some others, they said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin; he just said it’s not Russia.
Senator Rounds did mention Trump and Putin by name in further remarks to Washington Post reporter Erica Werner. Here’s Werner’s Tweet giving the full quote from our junior Senator:
There is no question but that Russia tried to interfere in the 2016 elections. I think the president clearly understands that. I have been trying to figure out why he did what he did and the only explanation that I can come up with is Mr. Putin just got out-Trumped by Trump. I just think if Mr. Putin thought he could tell a whopper, he just found out that he’s met his match. I don’t think this was good for our country. I think the immediate impact of this is people are scratching their head because they don’t understand what went on, and I can just tell you that the facts are very clear, and trying to make logic or trying to figure out why we would even be having this discussion where the facts were not laid bare to Mr. Putin, the only thing I can come up with is if he’s going to try to tell a straight-faced whopper like that, I think he just found out that he met his match [Senator Mike Rounds, quoted by Erica Warner, tweet, 2018.07.16].
If Senator Rounds sounds confused or confusing, well, that’s what happens when you try to explain Donald Trump’s destructive, anti-American words and behavior with anything other than the direct condemnation they deserve. But to cut through the clutter, after trying to ascribe to Trump a belief unsupported by any public statement Trump made in Helsinki, Senator Rounds is declaring that Donald Trump is a bigger public liar than Vladimir Putin.