Trump’s top Bay State Backer unfazed by judge comments

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BOSTON – After the top elected Republican in the country said that his party’s presumptive presidential nominee had made “textbook” racist remarks about a federal judge, Donald Trump’s chief backer in the Bay State dismissed the controversy.

“These have been reluctant Republicans to accept his nomination to begin with. It doesn’t surprise me that they’re looking for reasons to, I suppose, continue to say that they’re right,” said Rep. Geoff Diehl, a Whitman Republican.

Disavowals followed Trump’s suggestion that Judge Gonzalo Curiel treated him unfairly in a lawsuit brought by dissatisfied students of Trump University because Curiel is of Mexican descent and a key theme of the Trump campaign has been building a wall along the southern border of the United States.

On Friday the Wall Street Journal reported that Trump raised Curiel’s “Mexican heritage,” membership in a Latino lawyers association called La Raza Lawyers of California, and alleged past history with one of the plaintiff lawyers. Trump said, “I’m building a wall. It’s an inherent conflict of interest.”

On Tuesday, Paul Ryan, the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, said Trump’s statements about Curiel were racist and “absolutely unacceptable.”

“Claiming a person can’t do their job because of their race is sort of like the textbook definition of a racist comment,” said Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican who was Mitt Romney’s 2012 running mate and continues to support Trump and oppose the presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

Recently elected Republican National Committeewoman Keiko Orrall, a state representative from Lakeville who has said she would support Trump as the nominee, declined to comment on Trump’s remarks on Wednesday.

A prominent supporter of Trump before his win in the Massachusetts primary, Diehl said he disagrees with Ryan’s assessment, keying in on Curiel’s reported membership in the Latino law group.

“I don’t understand why we talk about Mexico as a race. Mexico is a country. This is a nation. We’re trying to have a secure border along the Mexican border, right. He’s talking about the potential bias of the judge who’s worked clearly with La Raza, who has efforts to try to get people into America,” Diehl told the News Service on Wednesday.

The lawyers’ association seeks to “promote the interests of the Latino communities throughout the state and the professional interests of the membership,” according to its website. Asked whether La Raza aims to get people into America, Diehl said, “I’m sure they’re supporting Mexican interests wherever.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Thursday was prepared to slam Trump in remarks to the American Constitution Society.

“Judge Curiel is one of countless American patriots who has spent decades quietly serving his country, sometimes at great risk to his own life. Donald Trump is a loud, nasty, thin-skinned fraud who has never risked anything for anyone and serves nobody but himself. And that is just one of the many reasons why he will never be President of the United States,” Warren planned to say, according to her prepared remarks. “Judge Curiel has survived far worse than Donald Trump. He has survived actual assassination attempts. He’ll have no problem surviving Trump’s nasty temper tantrums.”

Diehl said the focus should be on Clinton’s own legal troubles following a State Department Inspector General’s report that found her use of private server in her home for official national diplomacy emails was improper and reports that Clinton did not cooperate with the investigation. The former secretary of state’s email server use is under Department of Justice investigation.

“To me inappropriate use is basically criminal. It basically exposed sensitive emails where it shouldn’t have been done,” Diehl said.

Trump raised the judge’s ethnicity on his own in public remarks. While allowing for the presumptive nominee’s role, Diehl said, the controversy is “another media-generated issue to try to stall him in what has been a pretty impressive primary victory.”

“Clearly it was his choice to talk about it, but it’s always the media’s choice to extend it,” Diehl said.

In a statement Tuesday, Trump explained he doesn’t think a person’s heritage “makes them incapable of being impartial.”

“Normally, legal issues in a civil case would be heard in a neutral environment,” Trump said. “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.”

While electrifying Republican primary voters, Trump has sometimes had a harder time convincing elected members of the party to support him. Romney devoted an entire speech to attacking Trump earlier this year, and Gov. Charlie Baker said he won’t vote for the Republican nominee – or any other presidential candidate – for the first time in his memory.

Trump has also weathered prior controversies, deriding 2008 Republican presidential nominee U.S. Sen. John McCain’s service in the Vietnam War and holding unorthodox policy positions, on his way toward his status atop the party.

“People say, ‘Well, that’s it. The campaign’s over with.’ I think it tends to be more hype than reality,” Diehl said. He said, “It’s been a non-traditional campaign to begin with.”

Written by Andy Metzger