Appearing on Fox News, Charles Krauthammer voiced concerns Friday night over Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s criticism of the judge hearing the case against Trump University.
Trump has said that Judge Gonzalo Curiel cannot be unbiased in a case involving him because as a person of Mexican heritage, Curiel is likely to be against Trump in light of Trump’s proposal to build a wall between the United States and Mexico. Trump has denied claims from Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton that his opposition to Curiel is racist.
Krauthammer said the comments had “two disturbing elements … The first has to do with ethnicity, the other has to do with respect for the constitutional structure.”
“About ethnicity: You call a guy a Mexican who’s an American citizen — born here, raised here — because of Mexican heritage. Imagine if he were to say, ‘He’s biased against me because he’s a Jew or because he’s black.’ You can’t do that in this country,” Krauthammer said.
“The larger issue, apart from that, is a presidential candidate ranting against a sitting judge because of a private case, and the implication that there will be retaliation,” he said, although Trump has not indicated any form of retaliation is planed.
“We have had a quarter of a millennium (in the United States) where the executive has respected the independence of the judiciary. Criticizing is one thing, but this idea of menacing it (is something else). Here is an attack on the judiciary and I think that is what a lot of people — conservatives as well — are reacting to. And worrying about what Trump would do if he were president,” Krauthammer said.
Another commentator expressed a different take on the issue.
Writing in the Washington Post, former Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales said, “As a private citizen, Trump has a right to his opinions, regardless of whether others agree with them, or whether others consider them wise, foolish or even dangerous. “
Gonzales said the need for an independent judiciary is balanced by Trump’s right to a fair trial in the case at hand. Although he criticized Trump for taking his concerns public in the way Trump did, he noted that the true test is “whether there is an ‘appearance of impropriety’ under the facts as they reasonably appear to a litigant in Trump’s position.”
He noted that Trump’s aides have said they believe Curiel “is a member of the National Council of La Raza, a vocal advocacy organization that has vigorously condemned Trump and his views on immigration.” He also noted that the law firm Curiel appointed to represent plaintiffs in the case is linked to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
“Regardless of the way Trump has gone about raising his concerns over whether he’s getting a fair trial, none of us should dismiss those concerns out of hand without carefully examining how a defendant in his position might perceive them — and we certainly should not dismiss them for partisan political reasons,” he wrote.
“Finally, some have said that Trump’s criticism of the judge reflects on his qualifications to be president. If the criticism is solely based on Curiel’s race, that is something voters will take into account in deciding whether he is fit to be president. If, however, Trump is acting from a sincere motivation to protect his constitutional right to a fair trial, his willingness to exercise his rights as an American citizen and raising the issue even in the face of severe criticism is surely also something for voters to consider,” Gonzales added.
h/t: National Review