Nation reporter discusses Keith Ellison and the charges in Minnesota

John Nichols, national affairs correspondent for the progressive magazine The Nation, says he thinks Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison (D) brought forward appropriate charges against the officer who knelt on George Floyd’s neck before he died.

Ellison announced this week that he was upgrading the charges against Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who was seen in viral video kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes before he died, charging the fired officer with second-degree murder.

The attorney general also announced that he was charging the other officers who were at the scene during Floyd’s arrest — Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane — with aiding and abetting second-degree murder.

Nichols, who interviewed Ellison in a piece published earlier this week, told Hill.TV that the attorney general is “very conscious of the challenges here and very conscious of the history.” 

“In fact, a little later in the interview, he goes through the names of African American men who have died at the hands of police officers and the many, many challenges in getting convictions, even in having charges brought – the issue of hung juries in many of these cases,” Nichols said. 

“So he’s well aware of that, and I think we all are. And at the same time, there is a sense that the justice system has not functioned well, that it has not done its job,” he added.


Nichols said he believes Ellison has taken appropriate action following Floyd’s death in police custody, which prompted protests across the country.

“We’re at a point in history where an effort has to be made to sort of break the pattern,” Nichols said, referencing difficulties facing district attorneys, prosecutors and other legal entities when it comes to bringing charges.


“Any yes, it is a challenging job, but one of the things that I say about our politics so often is that a history of pulling punches, a history of compromising and not doing what is appropriate begins to lock in, and I would suggest at this point that Keith Ellison, from a very sound legal standpoint and from a very serious legal and societal concern, is choosing to charge appropriately,” he added.

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