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The South Florida Roundup

Miami-Dade GOP Chair Defends Votes Against Impeachment By South Florida Congressional Reps.

Julio Cortez
MOB INSURRECTION Pro-Trump rioters storm the U.S. Capitol Jan. 6, 2021 hoping to overturn the presidential election.

Also on Friday's show: Local school districts are pushing to get teachers prioritized for vaccinations. And new vaccination sites are opening, but supplies remain limited across South Florida. Listen in via the player above.

The GOP opposition to the impeachment of President Donald Trump was appropriate according to the chairman of the Miami-Dade Republican Party.
René Garcia also called the social media ban of the president "unchartered waters" for the 1st Amendment during an interview with WLRN.

The House of Representatives vote to impeach the president, for the second time, broke along party lines among Florida’s congressional delegation. Eleven Democrats supported it and 15 Republicans voted against it. One central Florida Republican did not vote.

The Republican opposition included the three Republican members from South Florida — two of whom were sworn in for the first time just days ago. Reps. Carlos Gimenez and Maria Elvira Salazar each flipped a Democratic seat in Miami-Dade County to the GOP in the November election. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart also voted against impeachment.

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Garcia called their opposition to impeachment "the right vote to take ... because this is a time to heal the country." The president was impeached one week after rioters overtook the U.S. Capitol, shutting down the congressional certification of the Electoral College votes for several hours. Five people died, including a U.S. Capitol police officer who was hit in the head by a fire extinguisher, and one rioter shot by police inside the building.

The president spoke at a rally earlier that day urging his supporters to "walk down to the Capitol, and we’re going to cheer on our brave senators, and congressmen and women. We’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong.”

Garcia said, "While, yes, I recognize that some of his words may have been incendiary in Washington at that rally, I think that the important thing to do now is for this country to come together to heal the wounds on both sides."

The transcript has been edited for clarity.

Rene Garcia headshot - Miami Dade Commission Jan. 15, 2021.jpg
Miami-Dade County Commission
René Garcia is the Miami-Dade County Commissioner representing District 13 in addition to his role as chairman of the Miami-Dade Republican Party.

TOM HUDSON: Not holding the president accountable through any process – how does that accelerate any kind of healing?

GARCIA: You have to understand where a lot of his supporters are and what they look what they're thinking. Think about this for a minute. Why isn't that same standard used when folks on the left, including the current vice president-elect and others, were agitating individuals when (there were) riots in our cities across the country?

But we did not hear then-Sen. Kamala Harris say to a crowd, "We're going to walk down" this street to this building and you "need to show strength. You can't take back the country through weakness."

No, but she did say that we are going to continue. We need to fight and we need to fight to the end. It is not just about calling her out and calling anyone else out. The issue that we have is that there is a double standard. And the hypocrisy that lies in politics on both sides, not just on one side. [It] didn't start with Donald Trump. I call it the "Yes, but" movement. [We should] sit down and be pragmatic thinkers and see what is in the best interests of the country, instead of making it about what's in the best interests for political party or individuals to continue and stay in power. That's what we have to stop.

And I say that as [the Miami-Dade County] Republican Party chairman, we've always talked about being the party of of law and order. And this is why what happened in Washington is completely unacceptable. But we should also be able to recognize that the other side, when the riots were going on, they were called peaceful protesting. And that's not necessarily what happened in a lot of our cities.

Do you think President Trump is a conservative?

Yeah, I think he is a conservative.

What does his conservatism hope to conserve?

It depends on how you define conservative?

How would you define President Trump's conservatism?

When you look at foreign affairs, he looks to bring everything back to America. He looks to put America first where we haven't done that. When we look at the record level of employment that we [saw] with African-Americans. I [saw] it back in my community before before we had COVID. We saw what was happening in rural communities with employment and wages. That's what this type of conservatism is about — putting America first.

Republicans [who] came out to vote for Donald Trump ... we have to hear their voices. We can't move this country forward if we don't hear the voices of everyone and bring people to the table.

A lot of people in South Florida have followed President Trump's false insistence that he won the election, and the lie that he tells about the election being stolen, and they've heard similar refrains in the native countries where many voters came from, who now live in South Florida. How do you respond to that?

It's a level of frustration for me.

As the chairman of the Miami-Dade GOP, would you like President Trump to continue to be a leader of the Republican Party?

It depends on what he does at the national level. We don't know what he's going to do until he decides. I think it's incumbent upon the local parties to to carry that mantle. One of the things that I've been talking about is that we have to be very careful. Although the social issues are extremely important that we have to take on, but right now, the constitutional battles that we're facing are much more important and much more important to the democracy of this country.

I always think the First Amendment is under attack. Never in my mind did I ever think the attack that was going to come, was not going to come from government, but was going to come from the private sector.

Would you require a Twitter, for instance, to reinstate the real Donald Trump handle? (Twitter and Facebook cut off Trump's access for inciting the crowd in Washington on Jan. 6. Amazon suspended right-wing social media site Parler from its Internet hosting services last week.)

I think they should.

But isn't that a First Amendment violation by the government telling a private company that it must say something?

This is the uncharted waters that we are right now because of the technology that exists in our country. We have become so accustomed to using these platforms, now they're going to pick and choose who can say what? That is completely wrong. I will fight to make sure that it gets reversed.

As a Republican, shouldn't the market decide which of those voices on those private platforms is heard from and not the government mandating that Facebook or Twitter or Parler have to broadcast these voices?

That's where we are in uncharted territory because we don't want to have to mandate. We hate that word — mandate. But then how do you balance out the mandate and censorship?

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In a journalism career covering news from high global finance to neighborhood infrastructure, Tom Hudson is the Vice President of News and Special Correspondent for WLRN. He hosts and produces the Sunshine Economy and anchors the Florida Roundup in addition to leading the organization's news engagement strategy.