Over the last few days, Trump has been launching attacks at the judge who refused a summary judgement in his favor on lawsuits involving the alleged scam known as Trump University. Judge Curiel ruled partially in Trump’s favor and partially against, throwing out the demands for an injunction but allowing the demands for damages to proceed. Trump then attacked Curiel, claiming that he is biased against Trump because he’s Mexican and doesn’t like Trump’s position on deportation.
Ken White has a great lawsplainer on the rules of recusal and bias. The TL;DR version is that Trump is full of it (surprise!). First of all, his lawyers haven’t asked for a recusal. Second of all, the reason they haven’t asked for a recusal is because demanding a judge recuse himself simply because he’s “Mexican” (Curiel is a first-generation American born in Indiana) wouldn’t work:
Many courts have considered and rejected the argument that a judge of a particular ethnicity, gender, or religion is inherently biased because of the nature of the case. In fact, the argument has been so repeatedly and thoroughly rejected that it’s sanctionable to make it.
But even that’s going too far. The case here does not involve Hispanics or immigration. It’s a case about fraud involving Trump University. What Trump is saying is that Hispanics can not possibly be judges for him in any proceeding because they might not like his positions on unrelated issues. The press has called these comments “racially tinged”. I won’t. If Trump is saying that Hispanics, by sole virtue of being Hispanic, can not judge his cases, that’s pretty much the definition of racism.
(Trump supporters are harping on Curiel’s association with the La Raza Lawyers of California, deliberately or ignorantly conflating it with the National Council of La Raza. I’m not going to get into NCLR right now, but these are not the same things. They’re not even close to the same thing. And even if they were, it’s not clear that this would necessitate Curiel’s recusal.)
I’m not fond of attacks on judiciary. I wasn’t happy when Obama did it for political reasons. And I’m certainly not happy when Trump does it for his personal benefit. However, I think we may be overthinking this. Our own Thrill sent this out the other night.
None of this has nothing to do w/the case. Trump is preparing to lose it and then blame a politicized Fed judiciary https://t.co/Zue2vdBj4m
— Thrill (@Thrill_RTFLC) June 7, 2016
I think Thrill has hit it on the nose. Trump is trying to defuse an electoral liability. Trump is many things, but he’s not an idiot. He knows that Trump University could be a big liability in the campaign. So he’s already delegitimizing the result, trying to pretend that the University controversy is just people out to get him because of his awesome ideas.
To be fair, our mainstream politicians and political commentariat are in glass houses on this one. For years, any SCOTUS decision they disagreed with was the result of politicization of the Court. If the conservatives opposed Obamacare, it was because of politics. If SCOTUS overturned campaign finances “reform”, it was politics. The extension Trump has made is to extend that excuse making into his personal lawsuits, rather than just political cases. But the groundwork for delegitimizing the Courts has been well laid and the people who laid it are the very ones complaining about Trump.
But this is a new low. Trump is attacking the integrity of the federal judiciary because of its effects on his personal finances and personal political ambitions. A federal judge is being slimed as collateral damage on his way to the White House. Right now, the GOP is rallying behind him, hoping he’ll advance their agenda. But, throughout this campaign, his has instantly and viciously throw anyone who has the temerity to oppose him under the nearest bus. What’s it going to be like when he’s President?
Post Scriptum: And just in case were’ still on about Trump not being establishment? The Florida AG decided not to join Trump University suits around the same she got a donation to her campaign.