WASHINGTON – Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar seems a less likely choice to become Joe Biden's running mate on his presidential ticket following this week's death of a black man in police custody in Minneapolis, a key ally of the former vice president said.
Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., told reporters on Friday that while he believes Klobuchar is “absolutely” qualified to be vice president, “This is very tough timing for her.”
Klobuchar was a prosecutor years ago in the county that includes Minneapolis. During that period, more than two dozen people — mostly minorities — died during encounters with police. Following customary practice at the time, she sent the cases to grand juries, which brought no criminal charges against any of the officers involved.
Clyburn, who called his view a “gut feeling,” played a pivotal role in helping Biden become the Democratic Party’s all-but-certain presidential nominee. Clyburn is the No. 3 House Democratic leader and Congress’ highest-ranking black lawmaker.
“So often in politics, timing really dictates things. Barack Obama I don’t think could have gotten elected four years before he got elected," Clyburn said of the former president during a conference call. “And I don’t know whether he could get elected today.”
Clyburn helped revive Biden’s badly flagging presidential campaign earlier this year, lifting him to a decisive win in a South Carolina primary in which large numbers of voters were black. That fueled a Biden run to a string of victories in other state contests that resulted in his becoming the party’s presumptive nominee.
On MSNBC, Biden said the tensions in Minnesota following the death of George Floyd have “nothing to do with my running mate.”
Pressed on whether Floyd’s killing increases pressure to place an African American woman on his ticket, Biden said he's talked about putting women of color on the Supreme Court and in his Cabinet. “And I also already said that there are women of color under consideration," he said.
Klobuchar did not respond to a request Friday by The Associated Press for an interview. On CNN, she sidestepped a question about her vice presidential prospects.
“He’s going to make the best decision on whoever he wants to govern with,” she said of Biden.
Before being elected to the Senate in 2006, Klobuchar, who is white, spent eight years as prosecutor for Minnesota's largest county. Most of the more than two dozen people who died during police encounters in her tenure were people of color, according to data compiled by Communities United Against Police Brutality and news articles reviewed by the AP.
An officer involved in one of those past fatal incidents was Derek Chauvin, who was arrested and charged Friday in this week's death of Floyd. A video showing Floyd complaining that he could not breathe as Chauvin kneeled on his neck has helped spark unrest in cities around the country.
Chauvin was among six officers who fired on and killed a man in 2006 who reportedly stabbed two people and then aimed a shotgun at police.
Chauvin's 2006 case went to the grand jury after Klobuchar was elected to the Senate and had left the county attorney’s office. Mike Freeman, Klobuchar's successor as prosecutor, made “all prosecutorial decisions" about Chauvin, according to a Freeman statement that Klobuchar's office provided Saturday.
Klobuchar told MSNBC that she now believes the practice of asking a grand jury to decide whether to charge officers was wrong.
Klobuchar and 27 other Democratic senators wrote Friday to the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, asking it to investigate “patterns and practices of racially discriminatory and violent policing” by the Minneapolis police.
AP reporters Sara Burnett in Chicago and Will Weissert in Washington contributed to this report.