After President Biden said Monday he is praying the jury comes to the “right verdict” in the Derek Chauvin trial, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden doesn’t see that as “weighing in.” Political and legal experts think otherwise.
“I don’t think he would see it as weighing in on the verdict,” Psaki said.
On Monday, the president said: “I’m praying the verdict is the right verdict. Which is – I think it’s overwhelming in my view.”
Some were shocked to hear a sitting president weigh in before a verdict is announced.
“This is a remarkable statement from a sitting president on a criminal trial currently underway,” CNN anchor Jim Sciutto wrote on Twitter.
“I’m saying this as someone who thinks Chauvin should be convicted for manslaughter & 3rd degree murder: this is highly irresponsible of Biden to say,” wrote Washington Examiner commentary writer Tiana Lowe. “Elected officials should not be weighing into an ongoing trial, especially one where the “wrong” verdict will result in mass chaos.”
Psaki reiterated that Biden chose to spoke out after the jury had been sequestered, and is currently deliberating a verdict. Biden too had said that he wouldn’t make the remarks if the jury wasn’t sequestered.
Speaking with reporters at the White House, the president discussed his call on Monday with the family of George Floyd, the Black man in Minnesota who died after he was seen on video – handcuffed – saying “I can’t breathe” as Chauvin kneeled on Floyd’s neck. His death sparked nationwide protests last spring and summer over police brutality against minorities and systemic racism.
Chauvin was charged with second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd’s death. He pleaded not guilty to all three charges.
Psaki said the president “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. I expect he will weigh in further once there is a verdict.”
On Monday, the judge in the Chauvin trial said that he wished elected officials would stop referencing the case “especially in a manner that is disrespectful to the rule of law” so as to let the judicial process play out as intended.
Judge Peter Cahill was referring to controversial comments over the weekend by Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters, who urged protesters in Minnesota to “stay in the street” and “get more confrontational” if Chauvin is not found guilty.
Psaki declined to weigh in on Waters’ comments, adding that the California Democrat had “provided further clarification of her own remarks.” Waters, in comments to The Grio, said she is a “non-violent person” and she’s not worried about Republicans trying to “distort” her words.
Fox News’ Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.