Outspoken U.S. Congresswoman Maxine Waters came under fire for comments she made this weekend about the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
The California congressional rep had some strong rhetoric while speaking to protesters during a rally in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, on Saturday.
“I’m going to fight with all of the people who stand for justice,” Waters said, according to the Guardian. “We’ve got to get justice in this country and we cannot allow these killings to continue.”
The Minneapolis suburb was wracked with several nights of unrest last week after Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, was shot and killed by longtime police officer Kim Potter. The 26-year veteran claims she mistook her service weapon for her Taser gun when she shot Wright as officers struggled to take him into custody during an April 11 traffic stop. Potter was arrested three days later and charged with second-degree manslaughter.
The shooting re-inflamed fresh wounds from the May 25, 2020, killing of George Floyd, which occurred 10 miles away. Chauvin kneeled on Floyd’s neck for 9 minutes, 29 seconds as he was pinned against the pavement during a forgery arrest.
When reporters asked Waters about the possibility of Chauvin being acquitted, she told them: “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.”
Marjorie Taylor Greene took that comment as a call for violence if the jury doesn’t convict Chauvin for murder. The staunchly conservative Georgia congresswoman announced Sunday, April 18, that she plans to introduce articles to expel Waters, based on her “continual incitement of violence.”
Greene filed her House resolution Monday, accusing Waters of “Black Lives Matter terrorism” and sparking a Sunday morning drive-by shooting on Minnesota National Guardsmen and a neighborhood security team from the Minneapolis Police Department. Two guardsmen were injured during the incident, but National Guard officials provided no evidence that the shooting was connected to Waters’ comments, according to The Hill.
Waters’ comments came two days before jurors heard closing arguments in Chauvin’s murder trial. The jury began deliberations about 5 p.m. EST Monday and has been sequestered while they determine the outcome of the trial.
After the panel was sent off to deliberate Monday, Chauvin’s defense attorney Eric Nelson motioned for a mistrial based on what he characterized as Waters’ “threats against the sanctity of the jury process.” He argued that her comments amounted to a demand for a guilty verdict and may have influenced some on the jury.
“There is a high probability that members of this jury have seen these comments, are familiar with these comments and things that have happened throughout the course of this trial,” Nelson said.
The defense attorney worried that the jury could be tainted by outside influences after news of Wright’s shooting exploded nationally last week. He asked that the jurors be re-questioned and sequestered then. Peter A. Cahill, the judge presiding over Chauvin’s trial, denied that request.
He was more sympathetic to Nelson’s argument over Waters’ comments.
“Congresswoman Waters may have given you something on appeal that may result in this whole trial being overturned,” Cahill said.
Cahill indicated he was aware of the congresswoman’s weekend comments and allowed Nelson to supplement the trial record with news reports detailing what she said. The judge then laid into Waters and other elected officials for muddying the waters by commenting publicly on the case.
“I wish elected officials would stop talking about this case, especially in a manner that is disrespectful to the rule of law and to the judicial branch and our function,” Cahill said. “I think if they want to give their opinions, they should do so in a respectful (way) and in a manner that is consistent with their oath to the constitution. To respect the co-equal branch of government. Their failure to do so, I think, is abhorrent.”
Cahill then denied Nelson’s motion, saying Waters’ remarks did not prejudice Chauvin.
“Beyond the articles that we’re talking specifically, about the facts of this case, a congresswoman’s opinion really doesn’t matter a whole lot,” he said.
It’s not the first time Cahill has invoked the prospect of a mistrial during the proceedings. Last week, retired forensic pathologist Dr. David Fowler, one of Chauvin’s expert witnesses, testified that carbon monoxide may have contributed to Floyd’s death.
Fowler took the stand April 14 and theorized that Floyd inhaled exhaust fumes from being pinned to the ground near the tail pipe of the police squad car. He testified that the carbon monoxide levels in his blood could have elevated to between 10 and 15 percent.
The following morning, special prosecutor Jerry Blackwell sought to introduce newly disclosed lab tests that could refute that claim. Nelson argued that the last-minute disclosure was prejudicial and told Cahill his expert witness had already left the state.
Cahill sided with Nelson and prohibited prosecutors from using the lab results. The judge did allow Dr. Martin Tobin, a pulmonologist who told jurors earlier in the trial that Floyd died of “low oxygen levels,” to take the stand again to rebut Fowler’s testimony. But Cahill had a strong admonition for prosecutors.
“If he even hints that there are test results that the jury has not heard about, it’s going to be a mistrial. Pure and simple,” Cahill said. “This late disclosure is not the way we should be operating here.”
Greene is coming off a week in which she caught some flack of her own for trying to help recruit far-right wing conservatives in the House of Representatives to an American First Caucus. Punchbowl News reported that the new caucus was billed as an ode to “Anglo-Saxon political traditions,” according to a policy document shared among House Republicans.
Following in the vein of former President Donald Trump, the group sought to take aim at mass immigration, election fraud and mail-in voting. Its mantra also included reining in an education system that “has worked actively to undermine pride in America’s great history and is actively hostile to the civic and cultural assimilation necessary for a strong nation,” according to the Punchbowl News report.
“The America First Caucus will work towards an infrastructure that reflects the architectural, engineering and aesthetic value that befits the progeny of European architecture,” stated the platform papers that circulated Capital Hill.
Historians pointed out that the term “Anglo-Saxon” is a racist dog whistle that white supremacists groups have used throughout American history, Newsweek reported. Mary Rambaran-Olm, medieval scholar at the University of Toronto, explained that AFC wielded the term in a historically inaccurate way.
“There is no such thing as ‘Anglo-Saxon’ political traditions’ unless Margorie Taylor Greene is talking about Old English characters and she isn’t,” she wrote on Twitter. “If she wants to return to those, she’ll have to stop advocating for gun use. ‘Anglo-Saxon’ is being weaponized by the far-right.”
Greene roared back on Twitter Friday, attacking the news outlet that first reported her plans. She took a tongue-in-cheek jab at Punchbowl for depicting her proposed congressional caucus as racist.
“Taking #AngloSaxon out of context to mean racist is the same as the idiots that lied about me and #JewishSpaceLasers,” the congresswoman wrote.
Greene is no stranger to controversy. House members removed the freshman congresswoman from her committee assignments in February after she endorsed right-wing conspiracy theories and supported calls for violence against Democratic legislators like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
On Sunday, Greene tweeted a message to Pelosi.
“You impeached President Trump after you said he incited violence by saying ‘march peacefully’ to the Capitol,” she wrote. “So I can expect a yes vote from you on my resolution to expel @RepMaxineWaters for inciting violence, riots, and abusing power threatening a jury, right?”