President Joe Biden said Tuesday that he “prays that they are the right ones” in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin and that he believed the case, which went to the jury and put the nation on the edge, is “overwhelming.”
Biden, ahead of a meeting with lawmakers in the Oval Office, told reporters that he only weighed in on the trial of the death of George Floyd, who died with Chauvin’s knee in his neck because the jury in the case had been fired. He confirmed that he called Floyd’s family on Monday to pray and said he “can only imagine the pressure and anxiety they feel.”
“They are a good family and they demand peace and quiet no matter what this verdict is,” Biden said. “I pray that they are right. In my opinion, it is overwhelming. I would not say that unless the jury was sequestered now. ”
The president has repeatedly condemned Floyd’s death but had previously stopped weighing in on the trial itself. His comments came as his administration has privately considered how to handle the upcoming verdict, including considering whether Biden should turn to the nation and send specially trained community leaders from the Justice Department, assistants and officials told the Associated Press.
The jury resumed deliberations on Tuesday morning after spending a few hours on Monday discussing the matter behind closed doors. As a closing argument earlier in the day, a prosecutor told jurors that Chauvin “had to know” that he was squeezing life out of George Floyd when he cried over and over again that he could not breathe and finally fell silent. Chauvin faces murder and murder.
Test for Biden
Plans for possible presidential remarks are still fluid, with the timing, location and nature of the remarks still being considered, in part depending on the timing of the verdict, according to two White House assistants who were not authorized to speak publicly about private conversations. and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.
The White House has carefully watched the trial continue in Minneapolis – and then another shooting of a black man by a white police officer last week – and is preparing for the risk of unrest if a guilty verdict is not reached in the trial. Biden can also speak after a guilty verdict, White House assistants said.
Floyd’s brother, Philonise Floyd, told NBC’s show “Today” that Biden “knows what it’s like to lose a family member … so he just told us he prayed for us and hoped everything would be OK.”
The verdict – and the aftermath – will be a test for Biden, who has promised to help fight racism in policing, help African Americans who supported him in large numbers last year in the wake of protests that swept the nation after Floyd’s death and restarted national conversation about race. But he has also long projected himself as an allied police officer, struggling with criticism of lengthy tactics and training methods and difficulties in recruiting.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday that the White House has had an “interval of talks” on preparations for the upcoming verdict, adding: “Our goal is to ensure that there is room for peaceful protest.”
“Obviously, we let the jury consider and we wait for the verdict to come before we say more about our commitments,” said Psaki.
Psaki said administration officials have been in contact with leaders in Minnesota and other cities and states who saw unrest after Floyd’s death last year.
She declined to answer if Biden would be “disappointed” if a guilty verdict was reached. She said Americans could expect to hear from the president shortly after the verdict, whatever it is.
President Biden spoke with George Floyd’s family yesterday to check in with them and also to tell them that the family was in his prayers.
– Jen Psaki (@PressSec) April 20, 2021
Judge Pete Cahill said on Monday after the end of the argument that he was ready and rejected a defense request for a mistake based in part on comments from California Rep. Maxine Waters, who said “we must be more confrontational” if Chauvin was not convicted of murder. He framed it as a politician in general.
“I wish elected officials would stop talking about this case, especially in a way that does not respect the rule of law and the rule of law and our function,” Cahill said. “I think that if they want to express their views, they should do so in a respectful manner and in a manner consistent with their oath to the Constitution to respect an equal branch of government. Their failure to do so I think is abhorrent.”
Preparing for unrest
Meanwhile, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Minnesota have been working with local officials to support law enforcement as they prepare for the risk of unrest after the verdict, officials said.
And the Ministry of Justice has also sent specially trained social workers before a verdict according to a senior official from the Ministry of Justice. The official could not discuss the plans publicly and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.
The officials, part of the Department of Justice’s public relations service, draw attention to themselves as “America’s Peacemaker” by mediating disputes in communities and holding listening sessions to prevent future conflicts.
A federal investigation into civil rights, separate from the trial, continues. Several witnesses were called earlier this year to appear before a federal grand jury that is considering charges against Chauvin.
The Department of Justice’s civil investigation has focused on Chauvin and some of the witnesses, including other officers who worked with Chauvin, have told AP acquaintances.
Chauvin was prepared to plead guilty to third-degree murder in George Floyd’s death before then-Attorney General William Barr personally blocked the basic agreement last year. Barr rejected the deal in part because he thought it was too early, as the investigation into Floyd’s death was still in its relative infancy, law enforcement officials said.
Across the country, police departments are also preparing for the possibility of riots or other unrest, with some interruption of holiday time and an increase in the number of officials available for shifts. The federal government has not detailed its plan in the event of widespread or persistent civil unrest.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Monday that there has been a request from officials in Washington, DC for DC National Guard forces in the event of civil unrest in the country’s capital, and it is currently being investigated by the military. He said that the army secretary has the authority to approve any request for the DC National Guard but that he did not have details of the request.