As criticism of his recent comments grew from some GOP leaders, Donald Trump issued a lengthy statement today saying his remarks against the judge presiding over the Trump University fraud case had been “misconstrued as a categorical attack against people of Mexican heritage.”
In a May 27 speech in San Diego, Trump slammed 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.
“The trial is going to take place sometime in November. There should be no trial. This should have been dismissed on summary judgment easily,” Trump said during the rally. “Everybody says it, but I have a judge who is a hater of Donald Trump, a hater. He’s a hater. His name is Gonzalo Curiel.”
“The judge, who happens to be, we believe, Mexican, which is great, I think that’s fine. You know what? I think the Mexicans are going to end up loving Donald Trump when I give all these jobs, OK?”
Curiel, who has delayed the start of the Trump trial until after the election in November, was born in Indiana to Mexican immigrant parents. Trump continued to bring up Curiel’s Mexican heritage in interviews, insisting on Bill O’Reilly’s show last night, “I don’t care about the Mexican. But we are being treated unfairly.” That was after Bloomberg reported on a strategy call with surrogates and supporters in which the presumptive GOP nominee told everyone to intensify their attacks on the judge.
Trump told CNN last week, “He’s a Mexican. We’re building a wall between here and Mexico.” On Sunday, Trump said that “yes… would be possible, absolutely” that he would perceive a Muslim judge to be biased against him.
“I am friends with and employ thousands of people of Mexican and Hispanic descent. The American justice system relies on fair and impartial judges. All judges should be held to that standard. I do not feel that one’s heritage makes them incapable of being impartial, but, based on the rulings that I have received in the Trump University civil case, I feel justified in questioning whether I am receiving a fair trial,” Trump said in the statement released this afternoon by his campaign.
Trump then moved into details about Trump University, saying plaintiffs gave the course high marks and pitching a new website called The Truth About Trump University.
“Normally, legal issues in a civil case would be heard in a neutral environment. However, given my unique circumstances as nominee of the Republican Party and the core issues of my campaign that focus on illegal immigration, jobs and unfair trade, I have concerns as to my ability to receive a fair trial,” the presumptive GOP nominee continued. “…Due to what I believe are unfair and mistaken rulings in this case and the Judge’s reported associations with certain professional organizations, questions were raised regarding the Obama appointed Judge’s impartiality. It is a fair question. I hope it is not the case.”
Trump added, “I do not intend to comment on this matter any further.” Then he noted, “With all of the thousands of people who have given the courses such high marks and accolades, we will win this case!”
Trump is scheduled to speak at 9 p.m. EST tonight.
“I have spent my life building bridges and tearing down barriers–not building walls. That’s why I find Donald Trump’s belief that an American-born judge of Mexican descent is incapable of fairly presiding over his case is not only dead wrong, it is un-American,” Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) said in a statement released by his campaign.
“As the presidential campaign progressed, I was hoping the rhetoric would tone down and reflect a campaign that was inclusive, thoughtful and principled. While I oppose the Democratic nominee, Donald Trump’s latest statements, in context with past attacks on Hispanics, women and the disabled like me, make it certain that I cannot and will not support my party’s nominee for president regardless of the political impact on my candidacy or the Republican Party.”
Kirk called it “absolutely essential that we are guided by a commander-in-chief with a responsible and proper temperament, discretion and judgment.”
“Our president must be fit to command the most powerful military the world has ever seen, including an arsenal of thousands of nuclear weapons,” said the retired Navy Reserve commander. “After much consideration, I have concluded that Donald Trump has not demonstrated the temperament necessary to assume the greatest office in the world.”