Earlier this week, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) made headlines after she suggested that protesters should continue to take to the streets if former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin had been acquitted in the death of George Floyd.
But while Waters’ remarks prompted swift pushback from Republicans, members of the congresswoman’s own party have been less willing to express disapproval — and it’s becoming something of a scandal.
“Disrespectful to the rule of law”
According to Fox News, the controversy began on Monday, when Waters traveled to Minneapolis amid unrest there surrounding Chauvin’s trial and a recent police-involved shooting in a nearby suburb.
On the issue of how the demonstrators should respond to the verdict in Chauvin’s case, Waters was clear. “We’ve got to stay on the street and we’ve got to get more active, we’ve got to get more confrontational,” the California lawmaker declared, referring to a case wherein Chauvin was acquitted, according to Fox. “We’ve got to make sure that they know that we mean business,” she added.
Those words brought a rebuke from the presiding judge in Chauvin’s case, Peter Cahill, who said commentary from legislators is “disrespectful to the rule of law and to the judicial branch.”
Although Cahill denied defense attorney Eric Nelson’s motion for a mistrial, the judge conceded that Waters’ outburst could provide grounds for an appeal. Chauvin was ultimately convicted of all three charges against him, according to the Associated Press, and a sentencing date is pending.
GOP cries foul
Like the judge, Republicans weren’t happy with Waters’ remarks ahead of the verdict. “I’d like to see Maxine Waters apologize for the inflammatory comments that she’s made inciting violence,” House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) said, according to Fox.
“It’s a powder keg down there,” Scalise added. “The last thing you want to do is make it worse, and especially, to give grounds for an appeal.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) expressed a similar sentiment. “One of the hallmarks of our system is people are entitled to a fair trial. Sometimes a fair trial is difficult to conduct,” he said, according to ABC News.
McConnell went on: “It is certainly not helpful for a member of Congress, and even the president of the United States to appear to be weighing in, in public, while the jury is trying to sort through this significant case.”
While House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) reportedly moved to have Waters censured, Democrats made clear that they wouldn’t support the move.
“I certainly will not support that frivolous resolution,” House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) said, according to Fox. “Kevin McCarthy should focus on his own conference because Republicans are a mess right now,” he charged.