By Justin Sink - 07/16/13 11:51 AM EDT
Former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs cautioned Tuesday that President Obama must be "extra special careful" in weighing in on the Trayvon Martin case so as not to influence the Justice Department review of civil rights charges against George Zimmerman.
"He is the president of the United States, and anything he says or does could be seen as coloring the Justice Department's review of this case, and there's no doubt he wants to give that process some space," Gibbs said on MSNBC. "And I think he also wants to, as he did in the statement, appeal for some measure of calm in all this."
"Cases are brought on the merits," White House press secretary Jay Carney said. "The merits are evaluated by the professionals at the Department of Justice."
"That's not something the president involves himself in," he continued, adding that it would be "inappropriate" for the president to weigh in on a DOJ review.
Carney added that he did not expect the president to discuss the merits of the case with Attorney General Eric Holder or to review the case publicly. But with pressure mounting from Democratic lawmakers and civil rights groups, and a quartet of interviews with local news stations scheduled for Tuesday, the president may be compelled to weigh in.
Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who fatally shot Martin, an unarmed black teenager, was acquitted late Saturday on manslaughter and second-degree murder charges.
In a statement issued Sunday, Obama called the teenager's death a "tragedy" and implored the nation to remain "calm."