“I’m praying the verdict is the right verdict, which is, I think — it’s overwhelming, in my view,” Biden said.
He added: “I wouldn’t say that unless the jury was sequestered now.”
The comments could provide another reason for Chauvin’s defense to argue the trial has not been fair. But even if the remarks have no bearing on the case itself, they were highly unusual and could complicated Biden’s efforts to console the country and urge calm if the jury comes to a different conclusion.
Cities around the country are preparing for widespread protests in the event that Chauvin is not convicted.
Making Biden’s comments even more notable, the state judge overseeing the case had warned Monday that politicians should avoid publicly opining on the case. That rebuke was aimed at Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), who on Saturday night said protesters should “stay on the street” and “get more confrontational” if there is not a guilty verdict.
Judge Peter Cahill denied the defense’s motion for a mistrial because of Waters’s comments, though he said that they may have given the defense attorney a reason to file an appeal.
Biden’s comments drew swift criticism from lawyers, including some usually sympathetic to him.
“No sitting President should be publicly weighing in on how a jury should rule in a pending criminal matter,” tweeted Bradley P. Moss, a lawyer who specializes in national security. “No president, liberal or conservative, democrat or republican.”
As president, Donald Trump was often criticized by Democrats and legal ethicists for giving his opinion on legal matters that were not yet resolved, especially if they were under the jurisdiction of federal officials. Chauvin’s trial is being handled by the state of Minnesota.
After Biden made the comments Tuesday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki stressed that he had waited until after the trial was completed and the jury was sequestered to offer any opinion, arguing that meant he was not infringing on the prospect of an impartial decision.
“I don’t think he would see it as weighing in on the verdict,” Psaki said. “He was conveying what many people are feeling across the country, which is compassion for the family, what a difficult time this is, what a difficult time this is for many Americans across the country who have been watching this trial very closely.”
She added: “The jury is sequestered. That is different from where things stood just yesterday. And he noted that in his comments as well.”
Floyd’s death, and the national protests that came afterward, were a key moment for Biden’s presidential campaign. They triggered new policies and commitments, and prompted Biden to make his calls for racial equity and an overhaul of the criminal justice system a more central element of his message.
The death spurred Biden to make one of his first trips after a lengthy period of staying at home due to the coronavirus, traveling to visit the Floyd family in Houston. He also recorded a video that played at the funeral.
“I’ve come to know George’s family,” Biden said Tuesday. “I waited until the jury was sequestered, and then I called. I wasn’t going to say anything about it.”
He added: “They’re a good family. And they’re calling for peace and tranquility no matter what that verdict is.”
Earlier in the day, Philonise Floyd told NBC News’s “Today” show about a call that he had with the president Monday.
“He knows how it is to lose a family member, and he knows the process of what we’re going through,” Floyd said. “So he was just letting us know that he was praying for us, hoping that everything will come out to be okay.”