Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
 / Updated 
By Leigh Ann Caldwell, Frank Thorp V and Ali Vitali

WASHINGTON — Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, the only black Republican in the Senate, said President Donald Trump was "receptive" when they met Wednesday in the Oval office to discuss the president's response to the white nationalist rally last month in Charlottesville, Virginia, and other issues affecting minorities.

During the 40-minute meeting, Scott said he told Trump about the history of "three or four centuries of rape, murder and death brought at the hands of the KKK and people who believe in a superior race." Scott said after the meeting that he had made clear that there was no equivalency to those protesting white nationalism at the rally.

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., is seen after the Senate approved $15.25 billion in aid for areas affected by Hurricane Harvey along with measures that would fund the federal government and raise its borrowing limit on Capitol Hill in Washington on Sept. 7, 2017.Joshua Roberts / Reuters file

"I wanted to make sure we were clear on the delineation between who’s on which side, and the history of the nation," Scott said, "and so we had a good conversation."

Trump in August said "both sides" were responsible for the violence that left one woman dead, comments that were roundly criticized by a bipartisan cadre of lawmakers and community leaders.

Scott was critical of Trump, saying "clarity and moral authority" from the president were necessary, but after Trump's comments, the senator said "that moral authority is compromised."

"Racism is real. It is alive. It is here," Scott told VICE.

Scott said that on Wednesday Trump tried to explain what he meant when he said there were "many sides" to the violence in Charlottesville.

"He simply was trying to convey not so much hate groups or the challenges, just that there were antagonists on the other side," Scott said, adding, "In that sense, it's true."

"However, the real picture has nothing to do with whose on the other side. It has to do with hate groups who, over three centuries of this country’s history, made it their mission to make upheaval in minority communities as a reason for existence," Scott said.

Scott said he also made clear that the president's comments on the violence in Charlottesville had an impact.

"Words are containers of power," he said, adding that there is "no more powerful word, no larger microphone than the president of the United States."

"No question, I think he understands that and echoed that during our conversation," Scott said.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who attended the meeting, called it "very productive," including in depth conversations about "what we can do to bring people together" and bridge divisions in the country. Vice President Mike Pence and top legislative affairs aide Marc Short also attended.

Trump, Sanders said Wednesday, is committed to continuing an ongoing conversation with Scott on these issues.

"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," the White House said in a statement issued after the president's meeting with Scott.

Sen. Tim Scott R-S.C. speaks during the Values Voter Summit, held by the Family Research Council Action, Friday, Oct. 11, 2013, in Washington. ( AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)Jose Luis Magana / AP, file

"I was very excited that he was receptive, ever–present during the entire meeting — that we stayed on subject as well, which I thought was helpful," Scott said of the president. "I thought it was important that he took it serious enough that we stayed on that topic."

Scott and Trump toured the new National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington together in February. Wednesday's meeting was described by Jennifer DeCasper, Scott's aide who sat in the meeting with Trump, as more serious.

Scott said that they also discussed how to move forward.

"The question is how do we make the nation better for the average person living in a vulnerable and distressed community," he said. "To me it comes out of fairness and opportunity."

As the White House continues its push for tax reform, Scott hopes the Investing In Opportunity Act, which changes some capital gains-related provisions to encourage long-term investment in distressed communities, will be included.

Sanders said tax reform was an issue that was also discussed Wednesday.

Scott also said that he's been working with the vice president and African-American leaders for the past nine months on how to help minority communities.