Biden says Derek Chauvin verdict is ‘giant step forward in march toward justice’

President Joe Biden said the guilty verdict in Derek Chauvin’s trial is a "giant step forward in the march toward justice in America." 

A jury found Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, guilty on all three counts Tuesday in the death of George Floyd: second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. 

"No one should be above the law and today’s verdict sends that message," Biden said. "But it’s not enough. We can’t stop here."

Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris formally addressed the nation hours after the verdict was read. Both said they will continue to urge lawmakers to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.

"We are all a part of George Floyd’s legacy and our job now is to honor it and to honor him," Harris said. 

The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act would ban chokeholds and "qualified immunity" for law enforcement while creating national standards for policing in a bid to bolster accountability. The House passed the act last month. Biden said if it passes in the Senate, he will sign it "as quickly as possible."

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Floyd died May 25 after being arrested on suspicion of using a counterfeit bill. During the arrest, bystanders captured widely-seen video of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for what prosecutors said was a total of 9-and-a-half minutes.

In closing arguments Monday, a prosecutor told jurors that Chauvin "had to know" he was squeezing the life out of George Floyd as he cried over and over that he couldn’t breathe and finally fell silent.

"Because of smartphones, so many have now seen the racial injustice that Black Americans have known for generations, the racial injustice that we have fought for generations, that my parents protested in the 1960s — that millions of us, of every race, protested last summer," Harris said. 

Biden and Harris spoke earlier in the day on the phone with Floyd's family after the verdict was read. 

In a video captured by the Floyd family’s attorney, Ben Crump, family and supporters gathered around a phone as both Biden and Harris gave their encouraging words.

"Feeling better now," Biden can be heard saying to the family. "Nothing is going to make it all better but at least now there’s some justice."

RELATED: President Biden calls George Floyd's family after guilty verdict

"Feeling better now," Biden can be heard saying to the family. "Nothing is going to make it all better but at least now there’s some justice."

Earlier in the day, Biden said he was "praying the verdict is the right verdict." He added that he believed the case to be "overwhelming, in my view."

Prior to a meeting with lawmakers in the Oval Office, Biden told reporters that he was only weighing in on the trial because the jury in the case had been sequestered at that point. The jury began deliberations Monday afternoon and returned with a verdict about 10 hours later around 2:30 p.m. local time Tuesday.

Biden postponed other planned remarks at the White House on his infrastructure package.

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Biden also spoke with Floyd's family on the phone Monday and said he "can only imagine the pressure and anxiety they’re feeling."

"They’re a good family and they’re calling for peace and tranquility no matter what that verdict is," Biden said.

Floyd’s brother, Philonise Floyd, told NBC's "Today" show that Biden "knows how it is to lose a family member... so he was just letting us know that he was praying for us and hoping that everything would come out to be OK."

The president has repeatedly denounced Floyd's death but had previously stopped short of weighing in on the trial itself.

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Biden has pledged to help combat racism in policing, helping Black Americans who supported him in large numbers last year in the wake of protests that swept the nation after Floyd’s death and restarted a national conversation about race. But he also has long projected himself as an ally of police, who are struggling with criticism about long-used tactics and training methods and difficulties in recruitment.

"This is a time for the country to come together to unite as Americans. There can’t ever be any safe harbor for hate in America," Biden said. "This can be a moment of significant change."

"This work is long overdue," Harris said. "America has a long history of systemic racism. Black Americans and Black men, in particular, have been treated throughout our course of history as less than human. Black men are fathers and brothers, sons, uncles and grandfathers, and friends and neighbors. Their lives must be valued in our education system, in our health care system, in our housing system, in our economic system, in our criminal justice system — in our nation. Full stop."

Kelly Hayes and The Associated Press contributed to this report.