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story.lead_photo.caption FILE - In this July 25, 2017 file photo, House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis. speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington.

MADISON, Wis. -- U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan said Monday that he will not support a resolution to censure President Donald Trump over his comments after the white supremacist march in Virginia, even though he believes that Trump "messed up" by saying "both sides" were to blame for violence and that there were "very fine people" among those marching to protect Confederate statues.

Ryan was asked at a town hall-style meeting organized by CNN in his Wisconsin congressional district whether he would back the resolution, which was put forth after Trump's comments about the Charlottesville, Va., rally. The question came from Rabbi Dena Feingold, the sister of former Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, who grew up in the same city as Ryan.

Ryan said censuring Trump would be "counterproductive."

"If we descend this issue into some partisan hack-fest, bickering between one another ... what good does that do to unify this country?" Ryan said, adding that it would be the "worst thing we could do."

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While Ryan said he wouldn't support censuring Trump, he gave his sharpest criticism to date of the president's comments in the wake of the rally, where a woman protesting against white supremacists was killed by a man identified as a neo-Nazi supporter. Ryan had previously spoken out against the violence, both on Twitter and in a statement earlier Monday, but he hadn't previously addressed Trump's comments directly.

"I do believe he messed up on his comments on Tuesday," Ryan said, referring to Trump's asserting that there were good people on "both sides" of the Charlottesville rally. "You're not a good person if you're there, it's so very clear."

The Ryan session began 30 minutes later than originally planned to accommodate Trump's nationwide address where he outlined a new strategy for troops in Afghanistan. Trump vowed to keep American troops fighting in Afghanistan, despite his earlier inclination to withdraw.

Ryan said he was "pleased" with what he heard from Trump and that it represented a more comprehensive strategy than what had been in place under former President Barack Obama.

Ryan said he's also gratified that Trump is moving away from having a timetable for withdrawing from Afghanistan and wants to prevent creating a safe haven for terrorists.

"We can't afford to allow that to happen again," Ryan said.

CNN extended invitations to people from Ryan's district and selected the questions that were asked. That has led to criticism from Democrats who say the Republican Ryan has been hiding from Wisconsin voters, since he hasn't held a meeting open to everyone since October 2015.

Ryan's Democratic challenger, Randy Bryce, said he did not receive a ticket to the event. Instead, he raised money to run a pair of television ads during the broadcast, including one where he poses three questions for Ryan to answer about health insurance, Trump and equal pay legislation.

Ryan has held numerous events in Wisconsin, but he's only taken questions from the public in controlled environments such as private businesses.

Ryan reiterated that he is committed to passing tax reform this year.

A Section on 08/22/2017

Print Headline: Trump 'messed up,' Ryan says

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