Vermont’s incoming governor is among the many Republican officials who opposed Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy. But now that Trump has won, Governor-elect Phil Scott says he’ll be looking for ways to work together with the new president.
Scott almost always chooses his words carefully; he exercises particular caution when the subject is President-elect Donald Trump.
“I’m not looking to poke my finger in the eye of the new president-elect or those in Washington at this point,” Scott says.
Scott says cordial relationships with members of the Trump administration could be critical to preserving Vermont’s interests in Washington. Scott says he has some reservations about some of Trump’s cabinet appointees and transition rhetoric. But he says he’s more interested in finding areas of agreement.
“I believe in respect for the office and I think we have to deal with reality,” Scott says. “This is going to be our president, at least for this term, so we have to look for ways to work together, and we have to protect Vermont.”
During a wide-ranging, hour-long news conference Monday, the subject of Donald Trump came up repeatedly.
Scott tried to steer the conversation back to developments on his own transition team in Vermont. Pressed, however, he offered reluctant criticism of some of Trump’s cabinet appointments.
On the nomination of climate change denier Scott Pruitt, for instance, to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott offered this:
“I believe that climate change is real. I believe that it’s man-made. And I would prefer that it was an appointment that believes in that as well.”
Asked if he was at all distressed by the president-elect’s blanket dismissal of a CIA report indicating that the Russian government intervened in the U.S. election with the goal of electing Trump, Scott said:
“I think I’m over that at this point. He is going to be our president, and I think we should become accustomed to some of this.”
Scott says he’s “surprised” by some of Trump’s cabinet picks. But he says he’s doesn’t want to be too quick to judge.
“We have to give the latitude to the president-elect to build his team as he sees fit, and we’re doing the same,” Scott says.
And Scott says that criticizing the president-elect from afar isn’t in anyone’s interest right now.
“So we have to make sure there’s a rapport there, that we can work with this new administration,” Trump says.
Scott says that if Trump proposes or adopts policies that contravene the interests of Vermonters, or anyone living here, then his approach will change.
“I will be an independent voice,” Scott says. “I will do whatever we can to protect Vermont and its citizens, and I would speak out against anything that would do otherwise.”
Scott says that includes executive actions targeted at Muslim refugees or people in the country illegally. Scott says he supports decisions in Montpelier and Burlington to become “sanctuary cities.” He says he also doesn’t anticipate changes to a Vermont State Police policy that prohibits law-enforcement officers from inquiring about people’s immigration status.
"We’ll continue to protect our citizens and those who are here without trying to divide us further,” Scott says. “I’m looking for ways to unite us.”
Scott says he plans to work closely with Vermont’s congressional delegation – which consists entirely of Democrats – to monitor the situation in Washington.