President Biden says he’s “praying” that jurors convict former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin of murder for killing George Floyd — less than 24 hours after the judge in the case called on elected officials to stop talking about the trial.
“I’m praying the verdict is the right verdict. Which is – I think it’s overwhelming in my view,” Biden told reporters at an unrelated Oval Office event Tuesday.
The blunt assessment by the nation’s top elected official comes the morning after the judge in the Chauvin case called on politicians to zip their lips.
Judge Peter Cahill said Monday that Rep. Maxine Waters ‘ (D-Calif.) remarks urging protestors to be more confrontational in the event of an acquittal could lead to the whole case “being overturned.“
He went on to say, “This goes back to what I’ve been saying from the beginning. I wish elected officials would stop talking about this case, especially in a manner that is disrespectful to the rule of law and to the judicial branch and our function.”
Biden said that he called Floyd’s family on Monday night after jurors began to deliberate in the case.
“I’ve come to know George’s family,” Biden said. “And his brother, both brothers.”
Biden said he waited to call Floyd’s family until closing arguments were done so that he wasn’t seen as applying pressure to jurors — as Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) stands accused of doing.
“I waited until the jury was sequestered and I called,” Biden said, without directly mentioning controversy over inflammatory remarks from Waters, who told a protest crowd Sunday near Minneapolis, “We’ve got to get more confrontational” if Chauvin is acquitted.
Biden said Floyd’s family does not want violence if Chauvin is found not guilty.
“They’re a good family and they’re calling for peace and tranquility no matter what that verdict is,” Biden said.
Republicans are pushing a House resolution to censure Waters. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) defended her, saying Monday, “Maxine talked about confrontation in the manner of the Civil Rights movement.” House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) countered Tuesday that Waters omitted the word “peaceful” from her call to action.
Chauvin’s fate is being carefully watched due to intense interest in the case and fear of civil unrest if he’s found not guilty.
Prosecutors said Chauvin murdered Floyd by kneeling on his neck for 9 minutes. But Chauvin’s defense argued that heart disease, drug use and potentially car exhaust fumes actually killed Floyd.
Floyd’s death triggered nationwide protests and rioting last year — causing up to $2 billion in damage, according to insurance company estimates.
Biden has repeatedly denounced Floyd’s death but had previously stopped short of weighing in on the trial itself. His comments came as his administration has been privately weighing how to handle the upcoming verdict, including whether Biden should address the nation and dispatching specially trained community facilitators from the Justice Department, aides and officials told the Associated Press.
The jury resumed deliberations Tuesday morning after spending a few hours Monday discussing the case behind closed doors.
The plans for possible presidential remarks are still fluid, with the timing, venue and nature of the remarks still being considered, in part depending on the timing of the verdict, according to two White House aides who were not authorized to speak publicly about private conversations and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.
The White House has been warily watching the trial proceed in Minneapolis — and then another shooting of a black man by a white police officer last week — and is preparing for the possibility of unrest if a guilty verdict is not reached in the trial. Biden may also speak after a guilty verdict, the White House aides said.
But the White House on Monday stopped short of condemning the remarks by Waters, who called for protesters in Minneapolis to “get more confrontational” with police. Press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden believes “protests must be peaceful,” in response to a reporter’s question about Waters’ call to action.
With Associated Press