Donald Trump has previously called the judge presiding over the two fraud cases against Trump University a "hater of Donald Trump" and made note of his Mexican ethnicity. Now, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Trump expands on the two themes: Judge Gonzalo Curiel, he says, has "an absolute conflict" because he is Mexican given Trump's view on immigrants. “I’m building a wall. It’s an inherent conflict of interest." Trump also says Curiel is a friend of one of the plaintiff's attorneys because they once worked together as federal prosecutors. But that attorney, Jason Forge, says he and Curiel never met socially. “Neither Judge Curiel’s ethnicity nor the fact that we crossed paths as prosecutors in the US Attorney’s Office well over a decade ago" is a factor, he says. Trump has thus far not taken any steps to try to have Curiel tossed off the case, though he said he is keeping that option open.
The Journal and the Washington Post talk to a number of legal observers who say that while criticism of federal judges isn't unusual, it is so in this case given that Trump is a presumptive presidential nominee and the attacks are so personal in nature. Curiel himself hasn't commented on Trump's criticism, though his brother says he's "taking it pretty much in stride." Politico, meanwhile, calls out Trump spokesperson Katrina Pierson for an apparent mistake after she noted that Curiel belongs to the La Raza Lawyers Association. "This is an organization that has been out there organizing anti-Trump protesters with the Mexican flags," she said. Curiel's La Raza is an apolitical lawyers' group; the one organizing protests is a Hispanic activist group called the National Council of La Raza. (This week, Curiel displeased Trump by ordering the release of documents related to the litigation.)