President Joe Biden told reporters before a meeting with lawmakers in the Oval Office that he was only commenting on Chauvin’s prosecution in the death of George Floyd because the jury in the case had been sequestered, the New York Post reported.
He said he called Floyd’s family on Monday, April 19, to express his condolences and that he “can only imagine the pressure and anxiety they’re feeling.”
“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.
“We’re all so relieved,” he said of himself and Vice President Kamala Harris when he called George Floyd’s family later.
Biden also expressed his expectation that the decision would give legislative police reform efforts a boost.
Judge Peter Cahill said Monday that Rep. Maxine Waters’ remarks urging protesters to be more confrontational if Chauvin was acquitted of murder in the event of an acquittal could lead to the whole case “being overturned.“
Speaking of politicians in general, the judge said, “I think if they want to give their opinions, they should do so in a respectful and in a manner that is consistent with their oath to the Constitution to respect a coequal branch of government. Their failure to do so, I think, is abhorrent.”
To Chauvin’s attorneys’ surprise, he admitted that Waters’ remarks could be grounds for an appeal.
“This is a remarkable statement from a sitting president on a criminal trial currently underway,” tweeted Jim Sciutto, a left-leaning CNN anchor.
At the regular press briefing on Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was bombarded with questions about the appropriateness of Biden’s remarks.
Journalist Kristen Welker of NBC News asked why it was appropriate for Joe Biden to weigh in on the verdict even though the jury was secluded because the president had talked about the importance of an independent judiciary.
Psaki replied, “I don’t think he would see it as weighing in on the verdict. He was conveying what many people are feeling across the country—which is compassion for the family, what a difficult time this is for many Americans across the country who have been watching this trial very closely.”
Reporter Jonathan Lemire of the Associated Press noted the judge’s remarks and asked Psaki why there was a concern then that the president’s comment could be grounds for an appeal or even causing a mistrial.
Psaki said, “He certainly is not looking to influence, but he has been touched by the impact on the family; hence he called the family yesterday and had that discussion. And again, I expect he will weigh in further once there is a verdict.”
“I’m not going to provide additional analysis on what he meant,” Psaki said when asked whether Biden’s remarks are accurately interpreted as calling for Chauvin’s conviction, as they tend to be.
PBS journalist Yamiche Alcindor put more pressure on Psaki by saying: “I’m confused about why you won’t clarify what the president said about praying that the verdict is right and it being overwhelming. The president obviously volunteered this information. No one asked him for his opinion about the verdict. Why not say this is what the president meant?”
Psaki said, “We’re not trying to provide greater information about predictions of a verdict. We want to leave that to the jury to make that determination.”
Psaki repeated that they were not trying to provide greater information about predictions of a verdict and “want to leave that to the jury to make that determination.”
Chauvin was convicted of two counts of murder and one of manslaughter in the death of Floyd, a case that sparked a national reckoning on race and policing.
According to insurance company estimates, Floyd’s death triggered nationwide protests and rioting last year—causing up to $2 billion in damage.