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House tables resolution to censure Maxine Waters over remarks about Chauvin trial

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Democrats narrowly defeated a resolution brought by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy Tuesday to censure Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters, after she encouraged protesters in Minnesota to "stay on the street" and "get more confrontational" if they don't see a guilty verdict returned in the Derek Chauvin trial regarding the death of George Floyd

The House voted to table the resolution 216 to 210 along party lines. This was a victory for House Democratic leadership, since they could afford just two Democratic defections on the vote. There were zero defections on either side, with all Democrats present voting to table and all Republicans voting to move forward. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer were spotted by the doors of the chamber talking to members as they entered, indicating how important Democratic leadership considered the vote. 

Following the vote, Waters said, "I love my colleagues and they love me. I don't want to do anything to hurt them or hurt their chances for reelection. I will make sure that they are comfortable with my kind of advocacy so that we can all be sure that we can do the right thing."

McCarthy had called Waters' remarks "beneath the dignity" of the House and said in a tweet that "[t]hey raised the potential for violence, directed lawlessness, and may have interfered with a co-equal branch of government."

His resolution cited remarks made by Judge Peter Cahill Monday after Chauvin's attorney, Eric Nelson asked for a mistrial over Waters' remarks. Judge Peter Cahill denied the request but told Nelson, "I will give you that Congresswoman Waters may have given you something on appeal that may result in this whole trial being overturned," and he said, "I wish elected officials would stop talking about this case especially in a manner that is disrespectful to the rule of law."  

Waters' initial comments came during a protest over the weekend, ahead of a verdict in the trial of Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The California congresswoman told reporters Chauvin should be found guilty. 

"I hope we get a verdict that says guilty, guilty, guilty," she said.  

Her comments also came in the wake of the death of Daunte Wright, a Black man killed by a police officer in Minnesota. 

When reporters asked Waters over the weekend what should happen if justice wasn't served in the courts in the Chauvin trial, Waters responded: "We gotta stay on the street. And we've got to get more active. We've got to get more confrontational. They've got to know that we mean business." 

After Chauvin was found guilty on all three counts, second-degree and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, Waters said, "You know someone said it better than me: 'I'm not celebrating, I'm relieved.'"

In remarks to The Grio on Monday, she did not back down from her remarks and said she is "nonviolent." She accused Republicans of twisting her words and using them as a fundraising opportunity.

 "Republicans will jump on any word, any line and try to make it fit their message and their cause for denouncing us and denying us, basically calling us violent … any time they see an opportunity to seize on a word, so they do it and they send a message to all of the white supremacists, the KKK, the Oath Keepers, the [Proud] Boys and all of that, how this is a time for [Republicans] to raise money on [Democrats] backs," Waters told The Grio. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also defended Waters' comments, stating that Waters had "talked about confrontation in the manner of the Civil Rights movement," and she said, "No, I don't think she should apologize."

Republicans have accused Waters of inflaming tensions. Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene said she would introduce a resolution to kick Waters out of the House, a highly unlikely scenario. 

Waters has served in Congress since 1991 and is the chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee. 

Nikole Killion and Rebecca Kaplan contributed to this report.

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