Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, the Senate’s only black Republican, agreed to meet with President Trump at the White House Wednesday, just weeks after telling VICE News he believes the president’s “moral authority is compromised” because he seemingly equated the neo-Nazis with the counterprotesters in Charlottesville last month and blamed “both sides” for the violence.
Scott said he was “encouraged” by his meeting with Trump, where they discussed the president’s comments in the days following the Charlottesville riots, which left one dead and about 20 others injured. “It was nice that he was very much listening and he had spent some time thinking about those comments and responded in fashion what he thought was a better frame for his comments,” he said.
When asked whether his faith in the president’s moral authority had been restored, the senator wasn’t quite ready to say yes. “I think that the restoration…of moral authority will be based on America’s reaction, and that will take time. We’ll see how it works,” Scott said.
According to Scott, the president did not express regret about his controversial comments and again argued that “there was an antagonist on the other side.” Scott said his response was that the “real picture has nothing to with who’s on the other side.”
He continued: “It has to deal with the affirmation of hate groups who over three centuries of this country’s history have made it their mission to create upheaval in minority communities as their reason for existence. And so I shared my thought of the last three centuries of the challenges from white supremacists, white nationalists, KKK, neo-Nazis…There’s no way to find an equilibrium when you have three centuries of history versus the situation that’s occurring today.”
The senator said he was “very excited” that President Trump “stayed on subject” during their cordial 40-minute Oval Office conversation, which also included a discussion of legislative initiatives that would help bring opportunity and money back into “distressed communities and rural areas.”
Also attending the meeting were Vice President Mike Pence, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House director of legislative affairs and the White House deputy director of Legislative Affairs, as well as a Scott staffer.
The White House released a statement about the meeting that said, “President Trump remains committed to positive race relations and looks forward to continuing the dialogue with Senator Scott, the African-American community, and leaders from diverse communities across the country, all of which have a wealth of perspectives and experiences with respect to this issue.”
While Scott did not invite the president to South Carolina, he thinks Trump will visit in the future and that if he comes down to talk about tax reform or an issue where they’re on the same page, he would “absolutely” appear with him. Asked if he would appear at campaign-style rally with the president, Scott didn’t answer.
Watch our interview with Sen. Scott, which originally aired Aug. 17 on VICE News Tonight on HBO: