(WASHINGTON) — President Biden weighed in on his hopes for a verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin for the first time Tuesday, after speaking with George Floyd’s family at the start of jury deliberations.
“I’m praying the verdict is the right verdict, which is — I think it’s overwhelming, in my view,” Biden told reporters in the Oval Office. “I wouldn’t say that unless the — the jury was sequestered now and not hearing me say that.”
Biden did not explicitly say whether the “right verdict” is guilty or not guilty. As president, Biden has been careful not to comment on a potential outcome in Chauvin’s trial for murder in Floyd’s death.
“We will continue to encourage peaceful protests, but we’re not going to get ahead of the verdict in the trial,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday when asked about the White House preparations for national reaction to a verdict.
But Biden has cultivated a relationship with the Floyd family since George Floyd’s death spurred a reckoning on racial injustice in America, calling the family Monday to check in and convey he was praying for them, according to Psaki.
“I can only imagine the pressure and anxiety they’re feeling. And so, I waited till the jury was sequestered, and — and I called,” Biden said Tuesday. He said he didn’t intend to make the call public, but George’s brother, Philonise, spoke about the call during a television interview Tuesday morning.
“He was just calling, he knows how it is to lose a family member and he knows that, the process what we are going through. He’s just letting us know he’s praying for us and hoping that everything will come out to be okay,” Philonise said on NBC’s “Today Show,” referring to Biden’s deep empathy for those who have experienced tragedies like the loss of his own wife and two children.
“They’re a good family. And they’re calling for peace and tranquility no matter what that verdict is,” Biden said.
“We just talked a little. I wanted to know how they were doing, just personally,” he added.
As a candidate for president, Biden was more forthcoming on his views of Floyd’s death, frequently condemning the incident on the campaign trail.
“And once again we heard the words, and they heard them, ‘I can’t breathe’ — an act of brutality so elemental, it did more than deny one more black man in America his civil rights and his human rights. It denied him of his very humanity,” Biden said on May 29, five days after the incident.
As recently as February, Biden said that Floyd was “murdered,” while expressing his hope that the world seeing Floyd’s death would help bring about change.
Biden’s relationship with Floyd’s family began shortly after his death. The first time Biden left his home region of Wilmington, Delaware, after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic was to meet with the family in Houston, ahead of Floyd’s funeral.
“Listening to one another is what will begin to heal America. That’s just what VP @JoeBiden did with the family of #GeorgeFloyd – for more than an hour. He listened, heard their pain, and shared in their woe. That compassion meant the world to this grieving family,” tweeted family attorney Ben Crump of Biden’s visit with the family.
Biden also recorded a video for Floyd’s funeral service, addressing Floyd’s daughter Gianna directly in his message.
“Little Gianna — as I said to you when I saw you yesterday, you are so brave. Daddy is looking down and he is so proud of you. And I know you miss that bear hug that only he could give. That pure joy riding on his shoulders so you could touch the sky. The countless hours he spent playing any game you wanted because your smile, your laugh, your love is the only thing that mattered in at the moment. And I know you have a lot of questions that no child should have to ask, questions that too many black children have had to ask for generations. Why? Why is Daddy gone?” Biden said.
Psaki has suggested that Biden will react once a verdict in the Chauvin trial is announced.
“When the jury makes their deliberations and concludes and a verdict is found, I’m certain the president will speak to that,” she said Monday.
In preparation for an outcome, Biden has recently spoken to Minnesota’s Democratic Gov. Tim Walz, and top White House officials are engaging with civil rights leaders as well as mayors in Minnesota and across the country, according to a White House official.
Biden has been closely watching the trial and provided updates, according to Psaki.
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