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CEO Daily: Trump keeps digging

Saturday Morning Post: The Weekly View from Washington

Donald Trump gave an interview yesterday remarkable even for this election. Answering questions from CNN’s Jake Tapper, the presumptive Republican nominee tripled down on his contention that the judge overseeing two class action lawsuits against Trump University is conflicted by his Mexican heritage. More pointedly, Trump said U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who was born in Indiana, “is a Mexican. We’re building a wall between here and Mexico.”

Set aside for a moment that Trump’s attack arguably represents a threat to an independent judiciary. Set aside, too, that it fits a pattern worrying legal scholars he could precipitate a constitutional crisis if elected. Trump has offered no evidence to support his accusation the judge’s heritage is tainting his handling of the case. So the extraordinary claim rests on a racist hunch. No wonder House Speaker Paul Ryan, a day after endorsing Trump, felt compelled to distance himself, calling out “reasoning I don’t relate to. I completely disagree with the thinking behind that.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, meanwhile, said he’s concerned Trump could poison the GOP with Hispanic voters for a generation.

The Republican standard-bearer has consistently shattered expectations. But the intra-party backlash to his jihad against Curiel demonstrates the fragility of his detente with GOP brass. And his insistence on pursuing it anyway — with no discernible upside as he risks further alienating a key voting bloc — suggests Hillary Clinton’s assault on his temperament could be on to something. Trump said in the CNN interview he’s got “very, very strong, very thick skin.” But if he keeps at it in the Trump University case, maybe he should propose swapping the Republican Party’s totemic elephant for a prairie dog, an animal that never stops digging.

Tory Newmyer
@torynewmyer
tory_newmyer@fortune.com

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