GOP lawmaker: Donald Trump's violent rhetoric is 'a problem'

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  • Mark Sanford said, 'Blame can go on the Republican side, it can go on the Democrat side'
  • The Republican is frequently been at odds with the President

(CNN)President Donald Trump's violent rhetoric is "a problem" that has led to great division in the country, a Republican congressman told CNN Thursday.

"The blame can go on the Republican side, it can go on the Democrat side, but when the President says to somebody in the audience, 'I wish I could hit you in the face. If not, why don't you do it and I'll pay your legal fees,' we ought to call it for what it is. That's a problem," South Carolina Rep. Mark Sanford told CNN's Anderson Cooper at the Congressional Baseball Game.
At a February 2016 rally, then-presidential candidate Trump told his supporters about protesters: "Knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously. OK? Just knock the hell -- I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees. I promise, I promise."
    Trump later denied that he ever offered to pay the fees, but admitted that he instructed his people to look into paying the legal fees of a supporter who sucker punched a protester at a North Carolina rally.
    Democrats defeated Republicans in the 2017 Congressional Baseball Game the day after a gunman opened fire at a GOP congressional baseball practice, shooting House Majority Whip Steve Scalise and three others.
    Sanford, who has frequently been at odds with the President, did not fault Trump for Wednesday's assault.
    "And I want to be clear, I didn't blame him for the shooting that took place," he said. "What I said was 'We have gotten to the point in terms of breakdown in civility in our country, that it's a problem and that everybody's to blame.'"
    The former South Carolina governor said religious groups, corporations and civic organizations all have a responsibility to promote civil dialogue.
    "We ought to call each other -- whether it's in church, whether it's in business, whether it's in the civil league, we ought call each other on 'Are we being human to each other in the way that we relate' because to have an open and civil society, you've got to have civil debate," Sanford said.