Election 2020

GOP Senator: Leaders' Effort to Rein in Trump 'Clearly Not Working'

Donald Trump overlooks members of the media before his news conference in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York on May 31, 2016. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

A GOP senator warned today that while party leaders “are trying to mold” Donald Trump “it’s clearly not working right now.”

“I mean, if this doesn’t change, we’re in for big trouble,” Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) told MSNBC this morning.

“His statements this week on the judge, that’s a new level. Because it’s not just, you know, ill-informed or ignorant statements, but they suggest that when he’s president, you know, after November, that, you know, perhaps he ought to go after that judge. That’s a whole new level. So that’s — it’s very disturbing,” Flake added.

In a May 27 speech in San Diego, Trump spent 12 minutes talking about the lawsuit and bashing Judge Gonzalo Curiel, a former prosecutor who took on the Arellano Felix cartel before being appointed to the state bench by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California by President Obama in 2012.

Trump called the judge a “hater… who happens to be, we believe, Mexican.”

Curiel, who has delayed the start of the Trump trial until after the election in November, was born in Indiana to Mexican immigrant parents.

In interviews since his initial statements, Trump has insisted that the judge’s Mexican heritage poses a conflict of interest in his fraud case since he’s campaigning on building a wall along the Mexican border.

“The whole thing that we Republicans say we’re against is identity politics. To say that if you are a certain gender or you are a certain race that you have to vote that way,” Flake said. “He’s just trying to confirm that stereotype that’s completely wrong. And it just — it’s offensive. It really is. And this week it was a whole new level.”

The senator acknowledged that “he’s the nominee, and we’ll have to deal with that. I hope that he changes.”

“It’s uncomfortable not having endorsed the Republican nominee, I have to say, but I can’t at this point,” he added.

Still, Flake said he doesn’t think “there’s time for a third-party candidate at this point.”

“I think we’re – you know, have what we have. And we’re not in a good situation. I mean — let’s face it. But we hope that he’ll come around. We hope that he, you know, on the Muslim ban and on this latest statement, I hope he walks it back. He seems to for a day or two, but you never know where he’s going to be the next day,” he said.

On his proposal for a ban on Muslims coming into the country “until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on,” Trump has not received support from members of Congress who are otherwise supporting the real-estate magnate.

Asked last week what he’d do if a President Trump came to him and asked the Senate to draft a Muslim ban, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he wouldn’t do it. “I’d say no,” McConnell told CNN. “I think that’s a really bad idea. Most Muslim-Americans are patriotic.”

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) told ABC on Sunday, “No, I would not support it. And I’ve already issued statements to that effect and what I understand is he has stepped away from those statements.”

Flake said he’s concerned about whether Trump can win Arizona in November.

“Right-thinking Republicans want somebody who is serious, for example, on immigration reform. And saying that we’re going to build a wall and make Mexico pay for it is not a serious proposal,” the senator said.

“They want serious proposals on how to deal with this war on terrorism — saying that you’re going to ban Muslims from entering the country is not a serious proposal. So, it’s not just the Hispanic voters that I’m concerned about. I am concerned about them, but it’s the broader electorate, broader Republicans.”