Donald Trump on Thursday escalated his attacks on the federal judge presiding over civil fraud lawsuits against Trump University, amid criticism from legal observers who say the presumptive GOP presidential nominee's comments are an unusual affront on an independent judiciary. In an interview, Mr. Trump said U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel had "an absolute conflict" in presiding over the litigation given that he was "of Mexican heritage" and a member of a Latino lawyers' association. Mr. Trump said the background of the judge, who was born in Indiana to Mexican immigrants, was relevant because of his campaign stance against illegal immigration and his pledge to seal the southern U.S. border. "I'm building a wall. It's an inherent conflict of interest," Mr. Trump said.
After Hillary Clinton made Donald Trump look ridiculous yesterday afternoon, I largely expected the presumptive Republican nominee to launch a new offensive against his likely Democratic opponent. Instead, Trump turned to the Wall Street Journal, where he escalated his attacks against the judge in the "Trump University" case -- who can't, incidentally, publicly defend himself.
This is, of course, completely bonkers.
It's already been well established that racially charged criticisms of Judge Curiel, who was born in Indiana, are indefensible. But Trump clearly raised the bar yesterday afternoon, effectively arguing that any Latino judge would be offended by the Republican's campaign platform, and therefore should not sit in judgment over a case involving Trump. Curiel's ethnicity -- and nothing else -- is a disqualifying characteristic in Trump's eyes.
The GOP candidate, ironically, also continues to argue that he'll do well on Election Day with Latino voters.
Such bigotry is obviously insulting, but the implications of such an argument are also worth appreciating -- because by Trump's reasoning, an alarming number of federal judges would, presumably, also have to be rejected as inherently biased in cases to which Trump is a party. The Republican candidate supports a ban on foreign Muslims entering the United States, for example, so any American Muslim on the federal bench would, by Trump's latest reasoning, have a "conflict of interest."
Trump wants to roll back the clock on women's rights, so this line of argument suggests women judges would be out, too. Trump has made insulting comments about veterans, so maybe judges who served in the military couldn't be trusted, either. We could do this all day -- Trump has antagonized a lot of people -- but the bottom line appears to be Trump's unnerving belief that only a narrow group of judges are capable of hearing his many legal cases.
Congratulations again, Speaker Ryan. You sure know how to pick 'em.
As for the ongoing "Trump University" controversy, yesterday brought new revelations.
* New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D) not only believes the "University" is guilty of "fraud," he also argued that Trump's enterprise preyed on victims of the financial crisis.
* Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi (R) considered joining a multi-state case against "Trump University," but after the Trump Foundation contributed $25,000 to a political fundraising committee supporting Bondi's re-election campaign, the Florida Republican ended her investigation.
* Eric Trump, the Republican candidate's son and a prominent surrogate for the Trump campaign, appeared on Fox News yesterday and compared "Trump University" to Harvard. Referring to students who felt ripped off by his father's enterprise, Eric Trump argued, "There's probably people that go to Harvard and say, 'Listen, I went to Harvard, I got a great education and I can't find a job or I didn't become the success that I could have been.'"
* "Trump University" lawyers have been eagerly pointing to positive reviews from former students. Some follow-up reporting found some of these people "were coerced into providing positive reviews."
* Trump announced yesterday he intends to reopen "Trump University" after the civil case is complete.