UPDATE — 3:07 p.m. EDT: Speaker Paul Ryan addressed the Trump controversy on Tuesday, calling the New York businessman’s comments about Judge Curiel’s ethnic background “the textbook definition of a racist comment,” but refused to renounce his endorsement of the presumptive presidential nominee.
Fearful of alienating a crucial bloc of Hispanic voters, top Republicans have called on GOP nominee Donald Trump to temper his criticism of U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, the presiding judge in a California lawsuit involving the now-closed Trump University.
Judge Curiel ordered court documents related to the case unsealed on May 27.
In response, the New York businessman has leveled a series of rebukes at Curiel, referring to him as a “hater” last week.
“I have a judge who is a hater of Donald Trump. A hater. He’s a hater. We’re in front of a very hostile judge. The judge was appointed by Barack Obama,” Trump said.
The case at hand revolves around a California lawsuit contending Trump’s Trump University defrauded thousands of students enrolled in the program’s seminars.
Trump contends Curiel’s Mexican-American heritage should disqualify him from the case because of Trump’s campaign pledge to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Trump repeated his charge again on Sunday during an interview on Face the Nation.
“He’s member of a club or society very strongly pro-Mexican, which is all fine. But I say he’s got bias. I want to build a wall. I’m going to build a wall.”
“I’m doing very well with Latinos, with Hispanics, with Mexicans. I’m doing very well with them, in my opinion. And we’re going to see, you’re going to see, because you know what? I’m providing jobs. Nobody else is giving jobs.”
“But just so you understand, this judge has treated me very unfairly. He’s treated me in a hostile manner,” Trump told host John Dickerson.
Concerned with Trump’s insistence on upbraiding Judge Curiel, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said “he couldn’t disagree more” with Trump’s characterizations of the federal judge.
“I am concerned about the Hispanic vote, America is changing. I think it’s a big mistake for our party to write off Latino Americans. I am concerned about that and I hope he will change his direction on that.”
Fellow Republicans Newt Gingrich, himself a former House Speaker, and Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair Bob Corker (R-TN) recommended Trump exercise prudence in his remarks. Gingrich called Trump’s words “inexcusable,” and Corker said he “did not condone” Trump’s words.
It was, however, former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales who came to Trump’s defense. Arguing in an editorial appearing in the Washington Post, Gonzales stated although he would have taken a different tack on addressing the matter, Trump’s questioning the judge’s fairness is “crucial to ensuring public trust in the courts.”
[Reuters] [CBS] [CNN]