Sen. Tim Scott, AG Jeff Sessions talk Charlottesville and Emanuel AME Church in surprise Charleston visit

August 18, 2017 GMT

Attorney General Jeff Sessions and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott discussed the parallels between the Charlottesville riot investigation and Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church shootings when Sessions made an unannounced visit Thursday to North Charleston.

Sessions was in town for a closed-door meeting to discuss the U.S. Justice Department’s law enforcement goals, which included a sit-down with state and local officials.

But during their one-on-one time, Scott, R-S.C., said he and Sessions talked about the parallels between the two incidents where racial prejudice, violence and a fatal outcome is a link.

“We were just having a dialogue on Charlottesville that led into Mother Emanuel,” Scott said during an interview after the meeting concluded. “And we talked about Dylann Roof, and we talked a little bit about Walter Scott as well.

“I was making the point that as a Charlestonian, we are very familiar with the provocative nature of hate and the challenges that one faces when confronting it,” he added. “I thought it was important for me to share those thoughts with the attorney general.”

Scott was referring to Roof’s racially charged June 2015 slayings of nine black worshippers at Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church, and the shooting of Walter Scott, a fleeing, unarmed black motorist shot and killed by a white North Charleston police officer.

Sessions left Thursday’s meeting, which was held inside the police department at North Charleston City Hall, without making a public appearance or statement.

Part of the discussion, Scott said, centered on what powers the federal government can bring to the investigation by focusing resources on the white supremacist-charged rioting in Charlottesville and the evidence-gathering needs in Ohio, simultaneously.

Ohio resident James Alex Fields Jr., 20, is accused of killing a woman and running over and injuring 19 others when he drove his Dodge Challenger into a crowd of counter marchers Saturday as part of white nationalist rally. Charlottesville resident Heather Heyer, 32, died in the vehicle attack.

Sessions gave assurances that every facet of the Justice Department would be put into play, Scott said.

“We talked about the fact that, according to Jeff Sessions, it is their number one priority. They are spending the resources and making sure that whatever is necessary to close this case and do the work of that case is going to be done,” Scott said.

He added, “There is not a higher priority from his perspective than Charlottesville.”

Session’s visit was originally scheduled to be in another part of the state, Scott said, but it was reconfigured in Charleston to match schedules. This is the second time Scott has brought Sessions to North Charleston. Previously, it was for a low-key visit when the former Alabama U.S. senator faced an uncertain future heading into his confirmation hearings for attorney general.

Among the 25 to 30 people from law enforcement at the meeting were 9th Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson, Charleston Sheriff Al Cannon and S.C. Department of Corrections Director Bryan Stirling.

Wilson said she came away with a positive outlook on Sessions and Scott concerns about the future of law enforcement.

“They clearly want to lift up law enforcement and give them the moral support they need,” she said. ”(Attorney) General Sessions and Sen. Scott were crystal clear in repudiating hate groups, and they understand the state’s need to to have the federal government’s support in criminal prosecutions.”

Wilson added that federal laws are stricter and have tougher sentences for crimes.

“We need their help with some of our worst actors,” she said.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions made an unannounced visit to North Charleston this afternoon as the guest of Sen Tim Scott— schuyler kropf (@skropf47) August 17, 2017