Biden ‘praying’ for Chauvin conviction; evidence ‘overwhelming’
President Biden said Tuesday that he believes the evidence is “overwhelming” in the case against the former Minneapolis police officer accused of murdering George Floyd, making clear that he believes the verdict should be guilty.
“I’m praying the verdict is the right verdict,” Biden said in remarks to reporters in the Oval Office. “Which is — I think it is overwhelming in my view.”
Biden made the comments as the jury deliberated whether to convict Derek Chauvin, the former police officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes in May.
Biden, who spoke earlier in the day with members of the Floyd family, said he wouldn’t have weighed in on the case if the jury had not been sequestered.
It is unusual for a president to weigh in on such a case, and specifically its merits, before a verdict, and the White House has taken pains not to get ahead of the legal process.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki declined to expand on what Biden meant with his remarks when asked about them during a briefing later Tuesday, sidestepping a question about whether he thinks Chauvin should be convicted on all counts. When pressed, Psaki insisted that Biden’s intention was not to influence the jury, noting as he did that they have been sequestered.
“The president has been clearly watching the trial closely as many Americans have been. He was also moved by his convos with the family yesterday,” Psaki said. “The jury is sequestered which is why he spoke to this but I will expect that he will weigh in further once there is a verdict.”
“We’re not going to get ahead of an outcome. I expect when there is a verdict, he will have more to say,” she added.
Biden, who was meeting with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, was asked about his phone call with Floyd’s family on Monday that Floyd’s younger brother, Philonise Floyd, detailed in a television interview earlier Tuesday.
“I can only imagine the pressure and anxiety they’re feeling and so I waited until the jury was sequestered and I called,” Biden said. “They’re a good family and they’re calling for peace and tranquility, no matter what that verdict is.”
Biden then made his comments about praying for the “right verdict.”
While he did not explicitly use the words “guilty” or “evidence,” there was no mistaking the president’s meaning.
“I wouldn’t say that unless the jury was sequestered now, not hearing me say that,” Biden added.
The nation is bracing for the verdict and potential unrest depending on the result, and the White House has called for any demonstrations to remain peaceful.
“His position is that there should be space for peaceful protest,” Psaki said Tuesday. “That will be his point of view regardless of the outcome.”
Psaki indicated that the president is likely to make extended remarks about the conclusion of the trial after a verdict is reached.
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) has endured a torrent of criticism from Republicans who claim that she incited violence over the weekend by saying that protesters should “get more confrontational” should the jury return a “not guilty” verdict.
“We’ve got to stay on the street. We get more active. We’ve got to get more confrontational,” Waters told demonstrators in Minnesota. “We’ve got to make sure that they know that we mean business.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has defended Waters, saying her remarks were made “in the manner of the civil rights movement” and that she has no reason to apologize. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is offering a measure to censure Waters.
Cities including Minneapolis and Washington, D.C., are bracing for potential unrest as the trial reaches its conclusion. The D.C. National Guard has agreed to dispatch 250 troops to the nation’s capital to help manage crowds and respond to potential large-scale protests.