President Biden took the unusual step in weighing in on a highly controversial trial that has rocked the nation for the past year just before a verdict had been reached, saying that he believes the evidence presented was “overwhelming” against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin accused of murdering George Floyd, making it widely clear that he is “praying the verdict” from jurors reached will be to convict.
“I’m praying the verdict is the right verdict. Which is – I think it’s overwhelming in my view,” Biden told reporters in the Oval Office Tuesday before meeting with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
“I wouldn’t say that unless the jury was sequestered now and not hearing me say that,” Biden added.
The president made the remarks as the jury were “sequestered” — isolated to avoid accidental or deliberate tainting of deliberated exposing them to outside influence or information that was not admissible in the trial, so it wasn’t seen that he had influenced jurors.
Biden told reporters that he called members of the Floyd family last night after jurors began their deliberation of the case. saying that he wouldn’t have weighed in on the case if the jury had not been sequestered.
“So I waited until the jury was sequestered, and I called. And — I wasn’t going to say anything about it, but Philonise said today on television, and he accurately said, it was a private conversation because Joe understands what it’s like to go through loss,” Biden said.
He emphasized that despite the verdict if Chauvin is found not guilty, the Floyd family said they do not want violence.
“They’re a good family. And they’re calling for peace and tranquility no matter what that verdict is,” he said. “So, we just talked a little. I wanted to know how they were doing, just personally. And we talked about personal things.”
Jury for the Chauvin trial began their deliberations Monday afternoon.
The blunt assessment in getting ahead of the legal process from Biden comes just 24 hours after the judge in the Chauvin trial called on lawmakers to hush their mouth in opining their opinions regarding this highly controversial case.
During the jury deliberation on Monday, Judge Peter Cahill scolded Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) for her “abhorrent” remarks in urging protesters over the weekend to “get more confrontational,” conceding in open court by declaring that her comments not only come at a worse time or put the court in a worse position but may have given the defense in the event of an acquittal the grounds that could lead to the whole case “being overturned.”
“I’ll give you that Congresswoman Waters may have given you something on appeal that may result in this whole trial being overturned,” Cahill said Monday evening before denying a motion by Chauvin’s defense attorney for a mistrial on the grounds of Waters’ remarks.
“This goes back to what I’ve been saying from the beginning. I wish elected officials would stop talking about this case, especially in a manner that is disrespectful to the rule of law and to the judicial branch and our function. Their failure to do so, I think, is abhorrent,” the judge angrily added. “But I don’t think it has prejudiced us with additional material that would prejudice this jury. They have been told not to watch the news. I trust they are following those instructions.”
Following Biden’s remarks, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki didn’t have to “circle back,” coming prepared with responses to questions regarding the appropriateness of the president’s remarks.
Associated Press noted the Cahill’s remarks, asking Psaki on whether “there concern now that this — the president’s comments — could be grounds for an appeal or even causing a mistrial?”
“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,” Psaki responded, declining to clarify if Biden’s remarks could be interpreted in calling for Chauvin’s conviction.
When pressed on the matter, 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,” Psaki added.
NBC News Kristen Welker asked, “The president has talked about the importance of an independent judiciary. Why is it appropriate for him to weigh in on the verdict, even though the jury is secluded?”
“I don’t think he would see it as weighing in on the verdict,” Psaki said. “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.”