BOISE – U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo has joined a growing chorus of high-profile Republicans calling on their party’s presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump to retract racially charged comments about a federal judge.
Trump has said that a federal judge presiding over a fraud case involving Trump University can’t be fair because of the judge’s Mexican heritage.
“Donald Trump may have his reasons for questioning how his case is being handled. But that should stop well short of attacking the judge in the case regarding his ethnic background. He should withdraw his remarks,” Crapo said in a statement issued late Monday night.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan on Tuesday called the statement racist, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also has criticized Trump’s remarks. Both, however, say they will continue to back Trump’s campaign.
Crapo was pressed to disavow Trump’s comments by his Democratic challenger in the November election, Jerry Sturgill.
Sturgill, a Boise businessman who is making his first run for office, issued a news release Monday morning calling on Crapo to reject Trump’s “overtly racist” remarks about Judge Gonzalo Curiel, an Indiana native whose parents were immigrants from Mexico. Trump said Curiel had “an absolute conflict” in presiding over his case because he was “of Mexican heritage.” He’s since doubled down on the comments, saying a Muslim judge also would be biased in his civil fraud case because of his campaign statements about Muslims.
“What Donald Trump said about Judge Curiel shocks the conscience and he should be ashamed,” Sturgill said in his news release.
Trump’s comments have drawn sharp criticisms from many in his own party. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said, “This is the most un-American thing from a politician since Joe McCarthy. … If anybody was looking for an off-ramp, this is probably it. There’ll come a time when the love of country will trump hatred of Hillary.”
Crapo has been circumspect about Trump’s candidacy, saying consistently that he doesn’t endorse in primaries but will support his party’s nominee. He referred briefly to the presidential race in his comments at the state GOP convention over the weekend, according to the Twin Falls Times-News, saying it’s a contest between two ideas of America, as a “caretaker society” or an “opportunity society.” A month ago, Crapo told KIFI-TV Local News 8 in Idaho Falls that he would “try (his) hardest” to help Trump win the November election.
Trump has been unfazed by the criticism. Trump said on Fox News, “All I want to do is figure out why I’m being treated unfairly by a judge. And a lot of people agree with it.”
On Tuesday, Sturgill said he was glad that Crapo responded to his press release.
“It’s just the right thing, for Sen. Crapo to call Trump on the racist, bigoted comments he’s making, and all the other hateful things that have come from the Trump bully pulpit. I think all the Republicans should withdraw their support,” Sturgill said. “I don’t know how they can endorse him.”
Top Idaho GOP officeholders have been unenthusiastic about Trump; Ted Cruz won Idaho’s primary. According to the Times-News, 1st District Congressman Raul Labrador told the GOP convention on Saturday, “I jokingly say Trump wasn’t even in my top 16. But he’s my nominee, and I’ll support him.”
A day earlier, Gov. Butch Otter told the GOP crowd that he voted for John Kasich for president, but it’s time to come together for presumptive nominee Donald Trump, saying, “Trump will tower over Hillary.”
None of the other members of Idaho’s congressional delegation had immediate comment Tuesday on Crapo’s statement or Trump’s comments; Suzanne Wrasse, spokeswoman for Sen. Jim Risch, said he “will be voting for Donald Trump based on his concern over who will be appointed the next Supreme Court justice. Beyond that, he will not give interviews or comment on Trump.”
Late Tuesday, Trump issued a lengthy statement, saying in part, “It is unfortunate that my comments have been misconstrued as a categorical attack against people of Mexican heritage. … I am friends with and employ thousands of people of Mexican and Hispanic descent.”
But he continued to criticize the judge and maintained he would win the Trump University case.
“While this lawsuit should have been dismissed, it is now scheduled for trial in November,” Trump said. “I do not intend to comment on this matter any further.”
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