Apparently, the trendy new thing to do in national politics is to act as judge and jury when weighing in on a pending legal case.
According to The Hill, that was evidenced at the highest possible level on Tuesday when it was revealed that President Joe Biden not only spoke with members of the family of George Floyd earlier in the day but also reportedly prayed for the “right verdict” in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who could be found guilty of manslaughter or murder.
What did he say?
Biden made crystal clear — without directly saying it — that he believes Chauvin should be convicted in the death of George Floyd, who died during an arrest last year and as a result, sparked nationwide protests and riots that resulted in mass destruction and loss.
“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’s comments came as the jury in the Chauvin trial entered day two of deliberations, with a verdict expected by many legal experts within the coming days.
The president made clear that he wouldn’t have commented on the case had the jury not already been sequestered, but a president weighing in on such a case is still considered rare and, for many, not appropriate before the verdict has even been decided, let alone announced to the public.
“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 with regard to his phone call with Floyd’s family. “They’re a good family and they’re calling for peace and tranquility, no matter what that verdict is.”
White House damage control
Not unexpectedly, reporters took White House press secretary Jen Psaki to task at Tuesday’s press briefing over the president’s remarks about the Chauvin trial earlier in the day.
“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.”
Psaki reiterated that she believes her boss will “have more to say” once the verdict is read, but said the White House is trying to be careful about getting ahead of the legal process.
The press secretary was also asked about the high likelihood of nationwide unrest, which might vary in intensity depending on the jury’s verdict — specifically whether or not Chauvin is hit with a murder charge, a manslaughter charge or acquitted of any charges.
“We will continue to encourage peaceful protest but we’re not going to get ahead of the verdict in the trial,” Psaki said.