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But on Thursday, the presumptive Republican nominee took his criticism a step further, telling the Wall Street Journal that Gonzalo Curiel had a conflict of interest in the case because “of Mexican heritage.”
Curiel is presiding over lawsuits that allege fraud against Trump University, and though Curiel was born in Indiana and is an American citizen, Trump said the conflict of interest is due to Trump’s desire to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
“I’m building a wall. It’s an inherent conflict of interest,” Trump told the Journal.
Curiel was appointed to his position in 2012 by President Obama and confirmed by the Senate, but before that, as Vox writes, “he spent years as an assistant U.S. attorney in San Diego, prosecuting people for smuggling drugs over the border” and receiving “death threats from a member of a Mexican cartel.”
Trump also alleged that Curiel was a former colleague and friend of one of the attorneys who’s prosecuting the Trump University case. The lawyer, Jason Forge, told the paper that he had never seen Curiel socially and 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” for Trump’s alleged actions.
As of this writing, Trump’s representation has not filed a motion to be assigned to a different judge.
But Trump’s comments Thursday continued a dialogue he began last week in San Diego when he said: "The trial is going to take place sometime in November. There should be no trial. This should have been dismissed on summary judgment easily. Everybody says it, but I have a judge who is a hater of Donald Trump, a hater. He’s a hater. ...
"The judge, who happens to be, we believe, Mexican, which is great, I think that’s fine. You know what? I think the Mexicans are going to end up loving Donald Trump when I give all these jobs, OK?”