PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Outgoing Congressman Scott Rigell sat down with WAVY’s Andy Fox for more than an hour Tuesday, taking questions on a wide array of issues.
Andy first asked Rigell why he’s leaving Congress after only three terms.
“It was nothing more than reconnecting with my family,” he said. “I’ve missed a lot.”
Rigell insists there is nothing more to it, but he is leaving at a time when Republicans control Washington — the House of Representatives, the Senate and the White House — for the first time since 2008.
Rigell, a Republican, did not support President-elect Donald Trump, and was shocked when he won the election.
Rigell believes like many other observers, Trump’s victory was so stunning even he didn’t think he would win.
“The night he actually did win, I think he was stunned by it, because he became quiet, which is unusual for him. He was realizing the magnitude of what was happening.”
Rigell is not sure that Trump winning is a good thing, and he’s concerned about the military.
In November 2010, Rigell was elected to Congress as a bi-partisan businessman. Six years later at his home, he says he’s had enough. In his only exit interview, Congressman Rigell says fiscal responsibility was lacking then and is lacking now.
“It is not better,” he said. “We are still on this dangerous path even with republicans in control, but both parties have contributed to this.”
Rigell thinks uncontrolled spending will impact military stability in Hampton Roads.
“What Trump has said: Reduce taxes, massive investments in the military and in infrastructure. He made it a point that he was not going to do anything to medicaid, medicare, or social security… Something has to give… Our nation is on a fiscal trajectory that puts every American, regardless of political party or where one lives, in jeopardy.”
Rigell says with this philosophy, at some point, the military may not get the dollars.
“We need investment in the military,” Rigell said. “In particular, the Naval base needs to get the investments it needs… We need to diversify our economy… and we need to make sure that we get the proper medical care to our veterans.”
Rigell says he’s worried about Virginia losing clout in the military wars of sequestration, and there’s good reason to believe that is well-founded.
“Look, we have [lost] the majority leader [Former Congressman Eric Cantor], we had senior members on the Appropriations Committee. We lost Randy Forbes, Chairman of Sea Power, Rob Whitman, Chairman of House Readiness on Armed Services. Then in 18 months, it all flipped and there was a sucking sound of influence out the door.”
Rigell says he accomplished his 10 commitments to Hampton Roads and Eastern Shore voters including, “I will serve every part of our community.”
“I love worshiping in different churches and being part of the full and beautiful fabric of Virginia,” he said.
Rigell came out early against President-elect Trump, and it appears 35 days after the election, Rigell is still not onboard the Trump Train.
“If I could isolate all the character deficiencies I see in him, which is impossible to do… I have always said there is not one character trait in him that I would want my son to emulate. Not one,” Rigell told Andy Fox.
Rigell actually supports Trump’s plan to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, but he says Trump’s polarization of the issue has hurt.
“I think Donald Trump has deeply divided our country, and I cannot see him bringing us together. Do I hope that happens? Yes, I do because I am an American first, but for him to say, ‘We are going to make Mexico pay for it’ is a bizarre statement.”
Rigell’s concerned with Trump’s Cabinet appointments, like for Secretary of State, Exxon Mobil’s CEO Rex Tillerson.
“I think it is a deeply flawed decision. I don’t see anything in his background that really qualifies him for this position.”
What’s most troubling, Rigell says, is Tillerson’s close relationship with the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin, and the apparent Russian influence favoring Trump in the presidential election.
“It is clear to some degree they influenced our election, Rigell said.
Rigell is discouraged Trump denies the influence, even though intelligence agencies have come to the same conclusion: There was influence.
“I think it would actually heighten his presidency if he would lead and advance the cause of exactly what happened.”
As Rigell left Washington for the last time he thought of this: “I want to serve without fear, and leave without regret, and that’s it. I think we’ve done so.”