Washington — President Biden said he hopes the jury in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former police officer charged in George Floyd's death, reaches the "right verdict," weighing in on the case as it approaches its conclusion.
Mr. Biden called Floyd's family on Monday, with the White House bracing for the verdict. The jury began deliberations after the conclusion of closing arguments on Monday, and continued on Tuesday morning.
Mr. Biden told reporters on Tuesday that he has come to know Floyd's family, and waited to call until the jury entered deliberations.
"I can only imagine the pressure and the anxiety they're feeling," he said. "They're a good family and they're calling for peace and tranquility."
Mr. Biden said that he is "praying the verdict is the right verdict, which is — I think it's overwhelming, in my view."
White House press secretary Jen Psaki defended Mr. Biden's comments, which took place after the president said he would not weigh in before the jury. "I don't think he would see it as weighing in on the verdict," she said.
Asked what changed to make Mr. Biden weigh in when he said he wouldn't, Psaki said, "Well the jury is now sequestered, which is a significant change."
Psaki tweeted on Tuesday that Mr. Biden spoke with Floyd "to check in with them and also share that the family was in his prayers." Psaki said Monday that the White House is in contact with state and local authorities and encouraging protests remain peaceful.
Philonise Floyd, the brother of George Floyd, said in an interview with NBC News that Mr. Biden called him earlier this week.
"He knows how it is to lose a family member and he knows the process of what we're going through. So he was just letting us know that he was praying for us and hoping everything would come out to be okay," Floyd said.
The country is bracing for the verdict against Chauvin, who is charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Chauvin was filmed pinning his knee on Floyd's neck for over nine minutes.
Floyd's death ignited a series ofagainst police brutality and racial violence, and further unrest is expected after the verdict is announced.
Mr. Biden has toed a delicate line in his response to recent demonstrations, offering his support for the cause while urging protesters to remain nonviolent. There was a surge in protests after Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, wasby police during a traffic stop in a Minneapolis suburb earlier this month.
"Daunte Wright in Minnesota — that godawful shooting resulting in his death, in the midst of an ongoing trial over the killing of George Floyd. And Lord only knows what's happened based on what the verdict will or will not be there," Mr. Biden said in remarks from the Oval Office.
But Mr. Biden also called for "peace and calm" last week, and condemned any looting or violence.
"I want to make it clear again: There is absolutely no justification — none — for looting. No justification for violence. Peaceful protest, understandable," Mr. Biden said. "We do know that the anger, pain, and trauma that exists in the Black community in that environment is real, it's serious, and it's consequential. But it will not justify violence and/or looting."
NAACP CEO and President Derrick Johnsonthat "the world is watching" for the verdict in the Chauvin trial.
"When you think about Selma, that was about voting reform, to allow our democracy to work," Johnson said. "Right now we're talking about our criminal justice system — the reform to ensure trust and we can feel safe."
There is significant tension around the outcome of the trial, particularly in Minnesota, where Governor Tim Walz has declared a public safety emergency. Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters has come under fire for encouraging protesters in Minnesota to "stay on the street" and "get more confrontational" if they don't see a guilty verdict returned in the trial.
Chauvin's defense attorney moved for a mistrial over Waters' comments, a request that was denied by Judge Peter Cahill.
"I will give you that Congresswoman Waters may have given you something on appeal that may result in this whole trial being overturned," Cahill told defense attorney Eric Nelson. He warned jurors not to allow "bias, prejudice, passion, sympathy or public opinion" to influence their decision.
Waters did not back down from her comments in an interview with The Grio on Monday and said she is "nonviolent." But House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is introducing , and she has been widely criticized by Republicans.
— Kathryn Watson contributed reporting
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