Biden, Harris speak on the Chauvin verdict

"We still must reform the system," Vice President Kamala Harris said.

April 20, 2021, 7:54 PM

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris each made a point of saying that there's still work to be done while delivering remarks on the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who was found guilty in the death of George Floyd.

"Today, we feel a sigh of relief. Still, it cannot take away the pain," Harris said. "A measure of justice isn’t the same as equal justice. This verdict brings us a step closer and, the fact is, we still have work to do. We still must reform the system."

Biden agreed that Tuesday's verdict was "not enough."

President Joe Biden, April 20, 2021, at the White House in Washington, after former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd.
Evan Vucci/AP

"Today, a jury in Minnesota found former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin guilty on all counts in the murder of George Floyd last May," Biden said Tuesday evening. "It was a murder in the full light of day, and it ripped the blinders off for the whole world to see the systemic racism the vice president just referred to, the systemic racism that is a stain on our nation's soul, the knee on the neck of justice for Black Americans, profound fear and trauma, the pain, the exhaustion that Black and Brown Americans experience every single day."

"Today’s verdict is a step forward," he continued. "I also spoke with George Floyd's family again, a remarkable family of extraordinary courage. Nothing can ever bring their brother, their father back. But this can be a giant step forward in the march toward justice in America."

The president called on the Senate to confirm two of his appointees to the Department of Justice, who he said are committed to "restoring trust" between Americans and law enforcement. He also expressed his dismay at the delay in Congress of passing meaningful policing reform legislation, pointing to the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which includes a ban on police chokeholds. He said it "shouldn't take a whole year" to get the legislation passed.

Biden also repeated a call for any reactions to the verdict to be peaceful, saying that Floyd's legacy should be one of "peace, not violence."

"Peaceful expression of that legacy are inevitable and appropriate, but violent protest is not," Biden said. "And there are those who will seek to exploit the raw emotions of the moment -- agitators and extremists who have no interest in social justice -- who seek to carry out violence, destroy property, fan the flames of hate and division, who will do everything in their power to stop this country's march toward racial justice. We can't let them succeed."

People react after the verdict in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, found guilty of the death of George Floyd, at George Floyd Square in Minneapolis, Minnesota, April 20, 2021.
Adrees Latif/Reuters

The president and the vice president watched the verdict with staff in the private dining room, according to a report by a pool of reporters.

Following the announcement of the verdict, Biden spoke with Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz. Biden, Harris and first lady Jill Biden also spoke with Philonise Floyd from the Oval Office. Attorney Ben Crump tweeted a video of the family during the call.

"I think of Gianna's comment, 'my daddy is going to change the world, he's going to start to change it now,'" the president said on the call.

Reverend Al Sharpton, Attorney Ben Crump and Philonise Floyd attend a news conference following the verdict in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, found guilty of the death of George Floyd, in Minneapolis, April 20, 2021.
Nicholas Pfosi/Reuters

He also said he was "so relieved" that Chauvin was found guilty on all three counts.

"You've been incredible, you're an incredible family. I wish I were there to put my arms around you," he continued. "I'm anxious to see you guys. I really am. We're going to get a lot more done, we're going to do a lot. We're going to stay at it 'til we get it done."

Biden then turned the phone over to the vice president.

"This is a day of justice in America and your family has been real leaders at this moment where we needed you, and in George's name and memory, we are going to make sure his legacy is in tact and history is going to look back at this moment and know that this inflection moment, you had to sacrifice so much as a family too, but we really do believe with your leadership and the president we have in the White House, we're going to make something good come out of this tragedy," Harris said.

President Joe Biden, accompanied by Vice President Kamala Harris, speaks, April 20, 2021, at the White House, after former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd.
Evan Vucci/AP

Earlier Tuesday, Biden weighed in on his hopes for a verdict, after speaking with 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."

ABC News' Ben Gittleson and Lauren King contributed to this report.

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