Trump unrepentant, claims judge comments ‘misconstrued’

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NEW YORK Donald Trump isn’t backing down from his fiery and controversial claim that a Latino federal judge’s Mexican heritage means he can’t be impartial overseeing a lawsuit that accuses the presumptive Republican presidential nominee’s Trump University of fraud.

On Tuesday, Trump doubled down on his rhetoric, issuing a statement in which he continued to stick by his criticisms of U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who is presiding over a federal lawsuit concerning the defunct university’s real estate seminar program.

“It is unfortunate that my comments have been misconstrued as a categorical attack against people of Mexican heritage,” Trump said in a prepared statement posted on his campaign website.

“I am friends with and employ thousands of people of Mexican and Hispanic descent,” he said. “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 has previously argued that Curiel is unfit to preside over his case due to his Mexican heritage, although Curiel was born and raised in Indiana to immigrant parents. The real estate developer has drawn fire over his immigration proposals, one of which calls for erecting a wall along the southern border of the U.S. and somehow forcing Mexico to pay for it. He has also called for the deportation of all illegal immigrants, including millions of Mexicans.

Trump’s comments regarding Curiel have drawn criticism from several prominent Republicans, including U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, a Republican who on Tuesday described one as meeting “the textbook definition of a racist comment.”

Curiel hasn’t commented about Trump’ remarks, which came after he unsealed documents in the class-action trial against the university. The judge ruled on a request from the Washington Post, which has previously drawn fire from the candidate over its fairness to him.

Curiel, who Trump labeled as a “Mexican,” was born in Indiana, where his father had moved the family to work in the steel mills in the 1940s, the Associated Press reported. He graduated from Indiana University’s law school and became a federal prosecutor in San Diego, chasing Mexican drug gangs.

In 2006, then-California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, appointed Curiel to the Superior Court of San Diego, AP reported. President Barack Obama named him to the federal bench in 2012.