Donald Trump speaks during a rally at the San Jose Convention Center in San Jose, California on June 2, 2016.
JOSH EDELSON AFP/Getty Images
By Claire Zillman
June 7, 2016

Presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump on Monday urged his supporters to double down on his recent criticism of judges and journalists in a brash affront to GOP leaders, who have pleaded with the businessman to move on, and in defiance of a memo sent by his own staff.

On a call with surrogates Monday night, Trump encouraged them to keep questioning the credibility of Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who is presiding over a case against Trump University and who recently unsealed court documents that cast Trump in a negative light. Trump has said the judge’s Mexican heritage makes him biased against Trump because of the candidate’s proposal to build a wall separating Mexico and the United States. Curiel was born in Indiana to Mexican parents.

 

Trump’s criticism of the judge has sparked backlash from members of his own Republican party, with leaders on Sunday urging him to shift his focus to his general election campaign against now-presumptive Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

Even Trump’s own campaign had sought to bury the issue, telling his most public supporters in an email Sunday that they were not authorized to talk about the lawsuit, according to Bloomberg.

But Trump undercut his staff’s directive on Monday, referring to it as “stupid.”

“Take that order and throw it the hell out,” Trump said, according to Bloomberg, which cited sources who were on the conference call.

He also told his supporters to criticize journalists who raise questions about the lawsuit and his remarks about Judge Curiel.

“The people asking the questions—those are the racists. I would go at ’em,” he said.

Asked for comment on the call, Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks told Fortune, “It was a very positive call to discuss overall messaging and more importantly to thank surrogates for their incredible support throughout the primaries as they come to an end.”

The businessman’s bid for the White House has been plagued by missteps in recent weeks, many of which involve his controversial real estate training program. The documents Judge Curiel unsealed revealed the hard-sell tactics Trump University used to entice students, some of whom are now plaintiffs in the class action case that accuses the program of fraud. Trump’s personal attacks on Judge Curiel, which he said would “possibly” apply to a Muslim judge too, have sparked concerns about how the nation’s judiciary and the rule of law would fare under a Trump administration.

Trump also came under fire for distributing money from a fundraiser for veterans only after news organizations asked where it had gone. He’s also drawing ongoing ire for refusing to release his tax returns, and he’s now facing a seemingly reenergized Hillary Clinton, who delivered an energetic blow against the businessman in a speech last week that painted him as temperamental and a risk to national security.

Clinton secured the necessary delegates to clinch her party’s nomination Monday night, according to the Associated Press.

This story has been updated with a comment from the Trump campaign.

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