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GOP senator: 'There will be hell to pay' if Russia tries to meddle in 2018 midterms

Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) on Sunday warned "there will be hell to pay" if Russians attempt to meddle in the upcoming U.S. midterm elections. 

Speaking to radio host John Catsimatidis on New York's AM 970, Rounds said that officials are working to secure our elections, but wanted to send a signal to Russia that there are consequences for their attempts at interfering in elections. 

"We have to have the ability to keep track of and to prove to people that these are honest elections and that an outside power didn't do it," Rounds said of the upcoming elections. "Part of the way we do that is to let the Russians know that if they mess with that stuff there will be hell to pay."

"We are in the process of preparing now," Rounds said when asked about preventative measures to secure elections. "And part of it is convincing people that it is actually happening."

The senator also said the U.S. would work to assure people of the integrity of state electoral systems as they go to vote, citing Russian attempts to probe state election infrastructure. 

The intelligence community last year concluded that Russian-linked groups worked to meddle in the 2016 presidential election. According to an intelligence community report, Russian operatives attempted to hack into more than 20 states' voter registration systems and conducted a misinformation campaign through social media sites. 

Illinois reported a breach of its voter registration database by hackers that gained information on 200,000 voters in 2016.

The senator's comments come after warnings by top U.S. intelligence agency officials to the Senate this week assuring lawmakers that Russians will attempt to meddle in the midterms and likely other upcoming elections. 

"There should be no doubt that Russia perceived its past efforts as successful and views the 2018 midterm elections as a potential target for Russian influence operations," Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told the Senate panel.