Donald Trump ordered attacks to continue against U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel in a campaign staff conference call and reversed a directive that surrogates tread lightly on Trump’s controversial comments, Bloomberg News is reporting.
Trump “ordered” surrogates to “question the judge’s credibility and impugn reporters as racists,” Bloomberg stated.
“We will overcome,” Trump said, according to two sources who requested anonymity with Bloomberg. “And I’ve always won and I’m going to continue to win. And that’s the way it is.”
According to the sources, Jan Brewer, the former governor of Arizona who has served as a Trump surrogate in many media outlets, interrupted the presumptive Republican nominee and pointed out that Trump’s own staff had sent out an email the day before, telling surrogates to tone down the rhetoric about Curiel.
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“Are there any other stupid letters that were sent to you folks?” Trump responded. “That’s one of the reasons I want to have this call, because you guys are getting sometimes stupid information from people that aren’t so smart.”
The original email, obtained by Bloomberg and sent out by staffer Erica Freeman, said about the Trump University case that, “The best possible response is ‘the case will be tried in the courtroom in front of a jury—not in the media.'”
Trump created controversy in a recent campaign stop in San Diego that Judge Curiel, who is presiding over one of the three trials involving the now-defunct Trump University, is “Mexican.” When questioned about this last week on CNN’s The Lead, Trump doubled down on his criticism.
“He’s a Mexican,” Trump responded to a question from Jake Tapper that suggested his attack was racist. “We’re building a wall between here and Mexico.”
The insinuation was clear: because Curiel is Hispanic (but not Mexican, since he was born and raised in Indiana), and because Trump’s signature campaign issue is building a wall at the Mexican border and having the Mexican government pay for it, Curiel, therefore, could not be an impartial judge in a case involving Trump.
Tapper asked at the end of their lengthy exchange, “If you are saying he cannot do his job because of his race, is that not the definition of racism?”
“No, I don’t think that at all,” Trump responded.
Trump’s Comments Worry Republicans
Trump’s rhetoric, his subsequent refusal to back down, and today’s meeting ordering surrogates to double down on Curiel have “dashed Republicans’ hopes that he would tone down his divisive rhetoric as a general election candidate,” Politico reported.
John Kasich, the governor of Ohio and Trump’s former primary foe, issued two Tweets demanding that he apologize to Curiel.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who endorsed Trump two weeks ago and volunteered to speak at the GOP convention if asked, called Trump’s remarks “wrong,” and added of Curiel, “That man is an American.”
Politico noted that other Republicans, like Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz, have taken a more “nuanced” approached to dealing with Trump’s comments.
“I can disagree on policy and principles. I disagree with the statements he made there but do I think he would be much better candidate and much better president than Hillary Clinton,” he said.
Republicans are wary of Trump’s comments about Curiel, as well as his proposal of the controversial wall at the Mexican border because Hispanics are now the second largest ethnic group in the United States. According to the Pew Research Center, Hispanics will comprise about 12 percent of all voters in the 2016 elections. White will make up 69 percent of all voters.
By comparison, those numbers were seven percent and 78 percent, respectively, in the 2000 elections. The Free Republic documented that in 2012. In 2004, President George W. Bush won 40 percent of the Hispanic vote. 2008 GOP nominee John McCain’s total shrunk to 31 percent in 2008, and Mitt Romney, the 2012 nominee, garnered just 27 percent.
Hence, the growing concerns about Donald Trump’s comments regarding Judge Curiel’s ethnicity.
[Photo by Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images]