Republican Sen. Johnson says he's uncomfortable with President Trump

MADISON — Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson said Wednesday that he's not comfortable with President Donald Trump's comments that "both sides" are to blame for violence at a recent white supremacist rally, but that he doesn't think President Trump is a racist and sees "no grounds" for impeachment.

Johnson, speaking to reporters following his remarks at a state chamber of commerce event, said President Trump's comments are a distraction from his broader agenda, including tax reform, and that he wishes the president would focus more on unifying the country.

But Johnson also said he did not think the remarks, which have elicited bipartisan criticism nationwide, show that President Trump is unfit for office. Democratic U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, Wisconsin's only African-American representative in Congress, called for President Trump to be impeached hours after his comments on Tuesday.

Johnson said "I see no grounds" for impeachment.

"The American people elected President Donald Trump and I'm not sure he's changed much from what he was during the campaign," said Johnson, who was an early and vocal supporter. Johnson did say he was uncomfortable with Trump's comment for the "same things that makes the American people uncomfortable. For the same reason we haven't moved beyond this issue. Let's try to unify this nation, let's try and heal it, let's try and focus on what is causing the division and try to reduce it."

Other Republicans nationally have been more critical of President Trump for not specifically denouncing white supremacists and for voicing support of those who want to maintain the monument to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Asked if he thought President Trump was a racist, Johnson said: "I don't think so."

When pressed why, he grew testy: "Because I just don't think so ... I think we've covered this one well enough."

Gov. Scott Walker said after a round table event in Green Bay that he denounces all hate, echoing his tweet on Saturday condemning violence at the rally.

"I think any of the white supremacist groups or other groups just need to be unilaterally dismissed and denounced," Walker said, according to a quote provided by his office.

Johnson said it was "depressing" that Heather Heyer was killed when a car rammed into a crowd of people protesting white nationalism, saying "all political officials need to speak out against that."

House Speaker Paul Ryan tweeted Tuesday after the President Trump news conference that "white supremacy is repulsive," but did not specifically address the president's comments.

Republican state Rep. Adam Jarchow, of Clear Lake, set off a heated exchange on Twitter when he said: "As a reminder, @GOP is the party that ended slavery and led the civil rights fight. Dems on wrong side of both."

When questioned to explain if he was saying President Trump was on the right side of the issue now, Jarchow tweeted: "Every single member of the @GOP I know deplores racism and denounces it. It's disgusting and wrong. That's the GOP I know."

Even conservative Wisconsin talk radio host Jerry Bader denounced President Trump in response to Jarchow, saying the president's words are "vile, repugnant and clearly illustrate he is not fit to hold the office of president."