FL Congresswoman on Jan. 6 panel: Defend American democracy or ‘we could lose it’

Florida is No. 1 among states for the number of criminal cases charged in the Jan. 6, 2021 attack at the U.S. Capitol

By: - June 10, 2022 1:15 pm

U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, a Florida Democrat serving on the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol, speaks Thursday night with Capitol Police Officer Caroline Edwards (left), who testified about her injuries and the “carnage” caused by the attack. Screenshot: MSNBC

Florida Republicans were mostly quiet on social media last night during the first scheduled public hearing of the U.S. House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the nation’s Capitol.

So was U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, a Florida Democrat serving on the investigative committee, which let Chairman Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, and co-chair Rep. Liz Cheney, a Wyoming Republican, lay out the panel’s first report of its findings. The panel presented evidence including testimony from Republicans in former President Donald Trump’s inner circle that Trump orchestrated the attack in a failed bid to remain in office after losing the 2020 presidential race.

On Friday morning, Murphy appealed to Americans of all political persuasions to defend democracy.

“Whether you were born an American, or became an American like me, we the American people – Democrats, Republicans, and Independents – should resolve to never take American democracy for granted, to cherish it, and to defend it. If we don’t, we could lose it,” she wrote on Facebook above a New York Times story about her family’s Vietnamese background and how it has shaped her work in Congress.

An American citizen, Murphy was a national security specialist in the office of the U.S. Secretary of Defense. Her congressional biography says she received awards for distinguished service, including the Secretary of Defense Medal for Exceptional Civilian Service. She is one of nine members of the select committee investigating activities before, during and since the deadly attack on the Capitol.

U.S. senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, both Florida Republicans, posted nothing about the hearing on their Twitter accounts.

In the House delegation, at least two Florida Republicans commented.

U.S. Rep. Byron Donalds, a Florida Republican, appeared on the conservative talk-show program hosted by Laura Ingraham. “To throw this out there, that somehow there is this danger to democracy that exists, is ludicrous,” he said, in part, on the show. “There are no issues. I don’t know what they’re talking about, except to cover up for their disastrous agenda.”

Likewise, U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart tweeted Thursday night that investigating the attack on the Capitol is a diversion tactic by Democrats, despite two Republicans (Cheney and Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois) serving on the investigative committee.

U.S. Rep. Val Demings of Florida, who is running against Rubio for that U.S. Senate seat, simply encouraged people to watch the hearings, saying on Twitter, “Accountability matters.” (The next one is scheduled for 10 a.m. EDT on Monday). The former Orlando police chief has expressed concern for the scores of law enforcement officers injured and wounded in the attack and those who died.

“I am thinking of the law enforcement officers still recovering from injuries sustained that day – and those who are no longer with us,” she wrote on Twitter exactly six months after the attack.

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office did not respond to a request for comment on the content of the Jan. 6, 2021 committee hearing Thursday evening.

Democrat Nikki Fried, Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture and a gubernatorial candidate in 2022, provided a statement on Friday:

“The January 6 Commission Hearings are a harsh, often painful reminder of how divided our nation has become. But political division is no excuse. The people who stormed the Capitol weren’t innocents swept up in a moment of excitement. They were rioters determined to undermine our most sacred rules of law – our voices, our votes – egged on by a feckless and power-hungry president. These are people so angry, they’ve turned their back on the values of their own country. They are no longer fellow countrymen; they are seditious traitors.

“Some of these insurrectionists were from Florida. In my capacity as Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services, I have suspended 35 licenses of those who participated in these riots. If we learn of more, we will suspend their licenses as well.

Painful though it may be, we must continue to hold those who stormed the Capitol accountable. Justice must prevail. Nothing less than our fragile democracy is at stake.”

Florida is No. 1 among states for the number of criminal cases charged in the attack, according to the federal Capitol Breach Investigation website which names more than 70 defendants being prosecuted in Florida by the U.S. Attorney General’s Office.

Meanwhile, the Proud Boys white-nationalist extremist group headed at the time by Miami-based Enrique Tarrio was featured Thursday in the select committee’s presentation of evidence, which included video footage of Proud Boys members in formation breaching the Capitol in military gear. The footage also shows Tarrio meeting with a leader of the Oath Keepers, an anti-government extremist group, in a Washington parking garage the night before the Capitol attack.

Tarrio also spoke at a July 10, 2021 rally on the steps of the Historic Florida Capitol in Tallahassee, where he and others called for release of “patriots” arrested in connection with the attack.

The Southern Poverty Law Center cites 53 hate groups based in Florida, second only to California, which has nearly double the population of Florida.

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Laura Cassels
Laura Cassels

Laura Cassels is a reporter, former statehouse bureau chief, and former city editor. She is a classical pianist, a Florida State University graduate and proud alum of the Florida Flambeau, an independent college newspaper. Contact her at [email protected]