Democrats defend Maxine Waters from GOP criticism after Chauvin trial judge’s admonishment

Democrats on Tuesday defended Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., saying Republican critics are “totally phony” for targeting remarks she made in Minnesota that earned her an admonishment from the judge presiding over Derek Chauvin’s trial in the death of George Floyd.

On Monday, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., accused Waters of “inciting violence” and said that if Democrats don’t take action against the congresswoman, who chairs the House Financial Services Committee, he “will bring action this week.”

Speaking to reporters, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said GOP criticism of Waters is “a dishonest distraction” and “absurd,” adding that the chairwoman’s remarks did not amount to a call for violence.

“I think it’s a totally phony effort to distract from what the Republicans know is rhetoric of so many of their members, which in effect has aided and abetted and condoned violent activity,” he said.

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., ridiculed McCarthy for having the “nerve” to take aim at Waters’ remarks after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, pointing to his vote against the affirmation of Electoral College votes following the violence and said he should focus on his own caucus.

“When you’ve got a situation where Lauren Boebert is a mess, Matt Gaetz is a mess, Marjorie Taylor Greene is a mess,” Jeffries said. “Clean up your mess, Kevin. Sit this one out.”

And in an interview with MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., said Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., “said much worse stuff than” Waters’ comments “just minutes before the insurrection” when he spoke at the rally preceding it, “and I don’t remember Kevin McCarthy saying one single word about that.”

“So, if he’s gonna bring forth the resolution, I would hope that he would bring a resolution regarding Mo Brooks as well,” Clyburn said.

Waters made the remarks while appearing at a racial justice protest Saturday in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, a suburb near where the Chauvin trial is taking place that has been roiled by protests after Daunte Wright, 20, was killed by police this month.

“We’ve got to get more confrontational,” Waters told reporters when asked what would happen if Chauvin is acquitted. “We’ve got to make sure that they know that we mean business.”

Waters, meanwhile, said she was not moved by the GOP criticism of her comments. Some Republican lawmakers called for her to be expelled from Congress.

On Monday, Chauvin’s attorney asked the judge to declare a mistrial over Waters’ comments, arguing that she had in effect prejudiced the jury. The request was denied, but Judge Peter Cahill called the comments “abhorrent.”

“I’ll give you that Congresswoman Waters may have given you something on appeal that may result in this whole trial being overturned,” Cahill said as arguments concluded and jury deliberations started.

Speaking with reporters Tuesday, Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., was asked if Waters’ comments are worthy of censure, why wouldn’t Brooks’ be as well. At that rally, Brooks told the crowd it was time to start “taking down names and kicking ass.”

“Well first of all, I have been very clear in speaking out against any kind of political rhetoric that incites violence,” said Scalise, the second-ranking House Republican who was injured by a politically-motivated shooter while playing baseball in 2017. “If you look at Maxine Waters’ comments, the judge in the trial just yesterday acknowledged that Maxine Waters’ comments are so inflammatory that it could cause grounds for an appeal if that ruling goes the wrong way.”

He said McCarthy would soon bring a resolution to the House floor to censure Waters.

“It’s a powder keg down there and the last thing you want to do is make it worse and especially to give grounds for an appeal,” he said. “Look, we all watched what happened and saw Officer Chauvin cross the line. We should be all focused on making sure that justice is carried out. The last thing you want to do is give grounds for an appeal that the judge himself acknowledges.”

Haley Talbot contributed.

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