White House says Biden wasn’t looking to influence Chauvin jury
White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Tuesday declined to clarify what President Biden meant when he said he was praying for the “right verdict” in the trial of the former Minneapolis police officer accused of murdering George Floyd, but said the president did not intend to get ahead of the jury’s decision.
“The president has clearly been watching the trial closely, as many Americans have been. He was moved by his conversations with the [Floyd] family yesterday. He knows the family, and as somebody who has been impacted by grief himself, that was a large part of their conversation,” Psaki said at a press briefing during which questions about Biden’s comments were a recurring topic.
“As he also noted, the jury is sequestered, which is why he spoke to this,” she continued. “But I would expect he will weigh in more further once there is a verdict and I’m not going to provide additional analysis on what he meant.”
“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.
Pressed on whether the White House is concerned Biden’s comments could be grounds for an appeal should former officer Derek Chauvin be found guilty, Psaki said the president is “certainly not looking to influence.”
“But he has been touched by the impact on the family, hence he called the family yesterday and had the discussion,” she added.
Psaki briefed reporters shortly after Biden weighed in on the Chauvin trial during a meeting with lawmakers in the Oval Office. Biden spoke to Floyd’s family on Monday after the prosecution concluded its closing arguments and the jury in the trial had been sequestered for deliberations.
“They’re a good family, and they’re calling for peace and tranquility, no matter what that verdict is,” Biden said. “I’m praying that the verdict is the right verdict, which I think, it’s overwhelming in my view.”
Biden did not clarify which verdict he felt was the right one, nor did he elaborate on what he viewed as overwhelming. But he has previously spoken with Floyd’s family, has repeatedly condemned Floyd’s killing and voiced support for policing reform in Floyd’s name.
Still, when asked on Tuesday if it would be correct to interpret Biden’s comments as saying he believes Chauvin should be found guilty, Psaki would not offer any clarity.
“I think what people should conclude is the president, like many Americans, has been deeply impacted by the trial, he was deeply impacted by his conversation with the Floyd family yesterday,” she said. “That he understands that people are exhausted, that they are tired, that this type of violence and trauma we’ve seen around the country and continue to see over the past couple of weeks, and hopefully that’s what they take away from his comments.”
Biden’s comments come as the nation, and the city of Minneapolis in particular, is already on edge about the upcoming verdict in Chauvin’s case. The former police officer, who knelt on Floyd’s neck for nearly 9 minutes in a scene captured on video that set off nationwide protests, is facing three charges.
In weighing in on the trial, even ambiguously, Biden broke with tradition observed by most past presidents of avoiding commentary on an ongoing criminal case until a final verdict is reached. A day earlier, Psaki told reporters the White House would not get ahead of any verdict.
The judge in the Chauvin case on Monday rebuked Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) after she said demonstrators would have to “get more active” and “get more confrontational” if Chauvin was acquitted. While she and other Democrats have argued she was referencing civil rights era protests, the judge suggested they could be viewed as inciting a response, depending on the outcome, and be used in any case for an appeal.
Updated at 2:32 p.m.