Trump’s comments come hours after he expressed confidence that he would win the case regardless of Curiel’s alleged bias. | Getty
Donald Trump escalated his attacks on the federal judge presiding over a civil fraud lawsuit against Trump University on Thursday, questioning his impartiality in handling the case because his Mexican heritage is “an inherent conflict of interest.”
Less than six hours after securing the endorsement of House Speaker Paul Ryan, the presumptive Republican nominee said that U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel had “an absolute conflict” due to his ethnic background, adding, “I’m building a wall. It’s an inherent conflict of interest,” according to a interview in The Wall Street Journal.
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Curiel was born in East Chicago, Indiana, to Mexican parents. He spent years prosecuting drug traffickers coming across the U.S.-Mexico border as a top official in the Justice Department’s South District of California, and was later appointed to the federal bench by President Barack Obama.
Trump’s comments come hours after he expressed confidence that he would win the case regardless of Curiel’s alleged bias.
“Even though I have a very biased and unfair judge in the Trump U civil case in San Diego, I have thousands of great reviews & will win case!,” he wrote earlier on Thursday. “After the litigation is disposed of and the case won, I have instructed my execs to open Trump U(?), so much interest in it! I will be pres.”
It’s not the first time Trump has attacked Curiel. At a rally on Friday in San Diego, he called him a “hater” during a 12-minute diatribe about the Trump University case and mentioned the judge’s Mexican background, though he called it “great” and “fine.”
His campaign has likewise gone after Curiel on ethnic grounds — though it apparently confused one Hispanic group with another.
“I think what’s really interesting about this particular judge — as Mr. Trump refers to him as a ‘Trump hater’ — is he even mentions on his judicial questionnaire that he was a La Raza Lawyers Association member,” Trump spokeswoman Katrina Pierson said on CNN earlier this week. “This is an organization that has been out there organizing anti-Trump protesters with the Mexican flags — they are pushing it. The signs have been very apparent. And so Mr. Trump is just stating the obvious.”
Pierson seems to have mixed up the La Raza Lawyers Association — an apolitical, professional group for Latino lawyers and judges — with the National Council of La Raza, a left-leaning Hispanic activist group headquartered in Washington, D.C.
Trump also leveled a new complaint against Curiel on Thursday: that he was friendly with one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers in the Trump University case, a former colleague.
The lawyer, Jason Forge, denied that.
“Neither Judge Curiel’s ethnicity nor the fact that we crossed paths as prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney’s Office well over a decade ago is to blame,” Forge told the paper.
Curiel has yet to comment on Trump’s accusations.