Yet another testy exchange transpired on the PBS NewsHour between reporters and Republicans, with host Amna Nawaz and new Republican presidential candidate, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez getting into it on Friday evening. Nawaz was greatly troubled that Suarez offered a hypothetical plan of action regarding a possible Donald Trump conviction on mishandling classified documents — if Suarez somehow became President of the United States.
Nawaz, as usual, gave her Republican guest the third-degree treatment, bearing down hard on the Democratic obsession of the day:
But Nawaz didn’t let Republican Suarez finish his point before interrupting. (Democrats don’t get hostile challenges on PBS, those are reserved for conservatives and Republicans.)
June 16, 2023
7:22 p.m. (ET)
Amna Nawaz: And the long list of Republican presidential candidates gained its first mayor this week. Miami Mayor Francis Suarez says he can usher in a new era for the GOP and the country. Francis Suarez (R), Presidential Candidate: Run for president of the United States of America. A third Florida man in the race, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez kicking off his bid for the White House, the only mayor in the growing GOP field.
Francis Suarez: I believe America is still a shining city on a hill whose eyes of the world are upon us and whose promise needs to be restored. And I believe the city needs more than a shouter or a fighter. I believe it needs a servant. It needs a mayor.
Amna Nawaz: Suarez is in the spotlight for the second time this week after helping coordinate security around the arraignment of his now-opponent Donald Trump.
Francis Suarez: In our city, A, we obviously, believe in the Constitution and believe that people should have the right to express themselves. But we also believe in law and order.
Amna Nawaz: The Cuban American followed his father’s footsteps into politics. Xavier Suarez served as the city’s mayor in the 1980s and 1990s. Francis Suarez was first elected in 2017 with more than 80 percent of the vote. It’s a part-time, largely ceremonial position, but Suarez pushed an economic agenda with an eye towards cryptocurrency and tech.
Francis Suarez: In Miami, we have already shown that our city is willing to lead into this new world of opportunity of crypto.
Amna Nawaz: The 45-year-old stands out in the GOP field with more centrist positions on immigration and climate change, which he believes is a major threat.
Francis Suarez: It’s not theoretical for us in the city of Miami. It’s real. We deal with it day in and day out, year after year.
Amna Nawaz: Over his two terms, Suarez has at times sparred with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, now his GOP rival, even criticizing the governor’s fight with Disney.
He took an issue that was a winning issue that we all agreed on, which was parental rights for K through third-graders, and it looks like now it’s something that spite or maybe potentially a personal vendetta, which has cost the state now potentially 2,000 jobs and a billion-dollar investment.
Amna Nawaz: But Suarez is also fighting his own battles. Last month, The Miami Herald reported he was paid thousands of dollars by a real estate developer in the city, money now under investigation as possible bribes. Suarez denies the allegation. And the Miami mayor now campaigns against two men who he did not vote for in previous elections, the former president, and Florida governor, though he said he will back the eventual 2024 Republican nominee.
And here to talk about the launch of his campaign is Mayor Francis Suarez.
Mr. Mayor, welcome to the “NewsHour.” Thanks for joining us.
Francis Suarez: Thank you for having me.
Amna Nawaz: So, as we just heard there, you did not vote for President Trump. We know he currently leads in early polls among GOP candidates, meaning Republican voters really do like him. So I guess the first question is, why should those same voters back you, if you didn’t back him?
Francis Suarez: You know, I think the voters have a choice. And the voters can decide to redo the 2020 election. That’s obviously a choice that they have. Or they can decide to choose something else. And I think, among the available candidates that they have, I think I’d rather be unknown and exciting than known and unexciting.
Amna Nawaz: You have said specifically you’re running for president because you feel you have a different message. In terms of messages and how they land with people. How is your message — specifically, how is it different from Mr. Trump’s?
Francis Suarez: Well, my message is different from all the caniddates. I’m someone that didn’t come from Washington. I’m someone that has executive leadership at the mayoral level, which is closest to the people.
I’m someone who’s actually cut taxes. I’m someone who’s balanced a budget. I’m someone who has created tremendous prosperity. We’re number one in wage growth. We have the low unemployment in America. And I have created that dynamism because I have met the moment in our city.
I have to ask you, though, because we’re speaking after the front-runner in your party right now was just arraigned on federal charges.
You have said that you haven’t ruled out pardoning Mr. Trump if you were to win. And I want to be clear about this. You’re saying, if he’s found guilty of illegally retaining national security documents and obstructing justice, you would deem those pardonable crimes; is that right?
Francis Suarez: I wouldn’t rule out a pardon for either party if it can heal the nation, number one. Number two, the issue at stake in the Trump case is whether he willfully retained national security documents. It’s clear that the current president, former vice president retained national security documents. It’s clear that the former secretary of state..
Amna Nawaz: Yes, but you know those are also very different circumstances. That’s been made clear.
They’re — they’re not different circumstances. The question is whether there was willful…
Francis Suarez: And that’s going to be decided by a jury of his peers.
Amna Nawaz: Mr. Mayor, all due respect, they are very different. The question here is whether Mr. Trump also obstructed justice in refusing to hand back documents.
Francis Suarez: That’s going to be decided by a jury. You can have your perspective. I have my perspective.
Amna Nawaz: These aren’t perspectives, sir. These are facts.
Francis Suarez: You have your perspective. I have my perspective. My perspective is that he is going to be judged by a jury of his peers. I personally would not have retained documents. I think most Americans find it very strange that any public official, whether they’re a current president, a former vice president, where you’re a current secretary of state, whether you were the vice president under President Trump, or the president. They don’t understand why anybody would retain documents that are of national security importance, whether it’s willful or unwillful. And so that’s very bewildering, I think, to the American public. But everybody in this country has a constitutional right — despite what the press would like to see and debate constantly ad nauseam, they have a constitutional right to trial by jury. Once that process concludes, then we will know whether he did something wrong or not. You can’t convict someone by indictment. And then if I’m the president of the United States, and he or anyone else had commits a crime that I feel pardoning that person would heal the country, would bring the country together, would unify the country, I certainly would consider it, of course. I would be negligent not to.
Amna Nawaz: I’d like to ask you about another issue you have spoken on quite a bit, which is immigration, but specific — specifically about DACA recipients in the country. I know there are tens of thousands in Florida alone. As you know, there’s a court ruling pending that could deem the DACA program illegal and throw many of those young adults’ lives into disarray and chaos. Back in 2020, you signed a letter from the U.S. Conference of Mayors urging then-President Trump not to end DACA. So, as president, how would you approach this? Would you grant those dreamers a path to citizenship?
Francis Suarez: It’s been a product of multiple different administrations, both Republican and Democrat. And we have to solve this crisis. We have, first of all, a problem at the border. We have six to seven people — six to seven million people that have entered illegally into this country just in the last couple of years, and that’s created chaos throughout American cities.
And we have China, who is spending a trillion dollars of our money subverting us in our own hemisphere, putting more immigration pressure on our country. And we have an incoherent non-nexus system for legal immigration that’s not indexed to things like unemployment or the fact that we have a declining birth rate. That’s the kind of conversation that we have — we need to have. And we do also need to include DACA recipients, and we do also need to include those who are undocumented in the conversation to determine what kind of status that they should receive. But I will tell you that, as a Hispanic Republican president, I think I would be in a strong position to be able to solve this issue once and for all.
Amna Nawaz: So how would you do that? With respect to those dreamers, would you grant them a path to citizenship?
Francis Suarez: Well, I think what you have to do is, you have to convince both parties that that particular class of immigrant is one that need — that should be a citizen. And I think — I think part of it is, as a Hispanic Republican potential president, and as a president, you’re going to have the ability to hopefully convince Republicans that they shouldn’t be afraid of legalizing certain immigrants who are going to be productive members of our society, like my parents were when they came to this country at 12 and 7.
Amna Nawaz: Mr. Mayor, you have made very clear who you are and what you believe. But I wonder how your experience in what is a part-time job, which people describe as mostly ceremonial, as the mayor of Miami, how does that translate to the demands of the presidency?
Francis Suarez: I think that’s a fair question, obviously. But the courage that it takes to make tough choices does not depend on, for example, the number of zeros in your budget or the number of people that you manage. It depends on your track record of decision-making. And my track record of decision-making has demonstrated that I’m not afraid to make tough choices. And so those kinds of decisions, which are the decisions that need to be made to bring our country back to prosperity, are not dependent on the kind of job that you have today. They’re dependent on the ability that you have and you have brought to the job.
Amna NawazThat is the mayor of Miami, Francis Suarez.Mr. Mayor, thank you for your time. Good luck on the trail, and please come back and join us again.
Francis Suarez: Thank you. You got it, for sure.