The judge overseeing the trial of Derek Chauvin has expressed frustrations with recent comments by the Democratic US representative Maxine Waters, in which she expressed support for protesters against police brutality, saying the remarks could lead to a verdict being appealed and overturned.
The California congresswoman spoke before final arguments on Monday in the murder trial of Chauvin, the Minneapolis officer who knelt on the neck of George Floyd for more than nine minutes last May, resulting in Floyd’s death and global protests.
“I’m going to fight with all of the people who stand for justice,” said Waters, who is Black. “We’ve got to get justice in this country and we cannot allow these killings to continue.”
Tensions are high in Minneapolis.
Waters said: “We’ve got to stay on the street and we’ve got to get more active, we’ve got to get more confrontational. We’ve got to make sure that they know that we mean business.”
Of Chauvin, Waters said: “I hope we’re going to get a verdict that will say guilty, guilty, guilty. And if we don’t, we cannot go away.”
Judge Peter Cahill, who is presiding over the Chauvin trial, showed frustration with Waters’ rhetoric shortly after the jury was dismissed Monday to begin deliberations. Chauvin’s defense attorney had motioned for a mistrial in light of Waters’ comments.
Cahill denied the motion but told Chauvin’s attorney: “Congresswoman Waters may have given you something on appeal that may result in this whole trial being overturned.”
The judge also called it “disrespectful to the rule of law and to the judicial branch” for elected officials to comment on the outcome of the case.
“Their failure to do so, I think, is abhorrent,” he said. “But I don’t think it has prejudiced us with additional material that would prejudice this jury. They have been told not to watch the news. I trust they are following those instructions.”
Earlier in the day, the Republican leader in the House of Representatives and an extremist congresswoman who champions “Anglo-Saxon political traditions” demanded action against Waters over the comments.
On Sunday night the Republican minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, said: “Maxine Waters is inciting violence in Minneapolis – just as she has incited it in the past. If Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi doesn’t act against this dangerous rhetoric, I will bring action this week.”
Waters, 82, a confrontational figure sometimes known as “Kerosene Maxine”, made headlines last week by telling the Ohio congressman Jim Jordan to “respect the chair and shut your mouth” during a hearing with Anthony Fauci, the chief White House medical adviser.
She regularly clashed with Donald Trump, angering some Democratic leaders. In 2018, Waters said people should harass Trump aides in public. Pelosi called the comments “unacceptable”. The Senate leader, Chuck Schumer, went for “not American”.
Observers said McCarthy’s most likely course of action is to seek formal censure – a move unlikely to succeed unless enough Democrats support it.
From the far right of McCarthy’s party, the Georgia representative Marjorie Taylor-Greene compared Waters’ words with those of Trump, when he told supporters to march on Congress and overturn his election defeat, resulting in the deadly Capitol riot of 6 January.
“Speaker Pelosi,” she tweeted. “You impeached President Trump after you said he incited violence by saying ‘march peacefully’ to the Capitol. So I can expect a yes vote from you on my resolution to expel Maxine Waters for inciting violence, riots, and abusing power threatening a jury, right?”
Trump did tell supporters to “peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard”. He also said: “If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country any more.”
Some Democrats want to expel Greene from Congress. That too is unlikely to succeed.
The Associated Press contributed reporting