More Republicans Criticize Trump Over Judge Comments

At least two men thought to be on Trump's VP list have spoken out.

ByABC News
June 6, 2016, 10:56 AM

— -- The list of Republicans who are criticizing Donald Trump for the comments he has made questioning a judge's ability to be impartial in a lawsuit against him continues to grow.

Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Marco Rubio, R-Florida, who both vied with Trump for the GOP presidential nomination, ripped him for saying federal Judge Gonzalo Curiel's Mexican heritage constituted a conflict of interest in the Trump University lawsuit he is presiding over.

"Of course it's inappropriate to be attacking a federal judge for his race and ethnicity,” Cruz said. “You’ll have to ask Donald to explain why he says the things he does. I'm certainly not going to try to do so."

Rubio said Trump's comments hurt the Republican Party.

"He needs to stop saying it, that man is an American," Rubio said in an interview with ABC Florida affiliate WFTV. "I don't think it reflects well on the Republican Party."

John Kasich, the governor of Ohio and a former rival of Trump's for the GOP presidential nomination, posted on Twitter that Trump should apologize.

Other Republican leaders, including Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have distanced themselves from Trump's comments.

The firestorm started last week when Trump said that Curiel had "an absolute conflict" of interest in a case involving Trump University because of his Mexican heritage. Even though Curiel was born and raised in Indiana, Trump said his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border would affect Curiel's judgments.

Trump doubled down on those comments this weekend, arguing that it would be "possible" for a Muslim judge to be biased against him because of his proposal to bar foreign Muslims from traveling to the U.S.

Last week, less than a day after finally throwing his support behind Trump, Ryan distanced himself from Trump's comments about Curiel.

"I completely disagree with the thinking on that," Ryan told a local radio station.

McConnell echoed those sentiments on NBC's "Meet the Press" this weekend, saying, "I don't agree with what [Trump] had to say."

PHOTO: Newt Gingrich speaks to the media as Donald Trump listens at Trump Tower following a meeting between the two, Dec. 5, 2011, in New York.
Newt Gingrich speaks to the media as Donald Trump listens at Trump Tower following a meeting between the two, Dec. 5, 2011, in New York.

One of the more surprising dissenters was Newt Gingrich. The former speaker of the House is a longtime Trump supporter and has been widely considered a likely Trump vice presidential pick.

"I think it was a mistake. I hope it was sloppiness," Gingrich said Sunday during an appearance on Fox News.

Another possible Trump running mate, Sen. Bob Corker, said on ABC News' "This Week" that he did not "condone" Trump's comments.

Trump didn't take the criticisms lightly. During a phone interview on "Fox and Friends" this morning, he said that he expected attacks from Clinton on the topic but was "surprised" by Gingrich's remarks.

"As far as Newt is concerned, I was surprised at Newt. I thought it was inappropriate what he said," Trump said.

Returning to Capitol Hill Monday after more than a week in their home states, many Republican senators were reluctant to discuss the latest controversy involving their party's presumptive presidential nominee.

"I am on my way to the office. Thank you," said Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, when questioned by ABC News at the Capitol.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, a frequent critic of Trump's during the primary, said Trump's comments were not appropriate.

Asked if they were racist, Graham replied "I think so," before jumping into a waiting car. Trump has said "I am the least racist person that you have ever met."

Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, who is supporting Trump as the nominee, disagreed.

"I don't think he is racist at all," Shelby said.

"What if he was German?" he continued, referring to Curiel. "Or what if he was was Polish, or English? Think about it."

ABC's Ali Rogin and Mary Bruce contributed to this report.