Senior U.S. Republicans criticize Trump's remarks on Hispanic judge

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RNC Head of Hispanic Outreach Quits Over Trump

By Ginger Gibson and Sarah N. Lynch

WASHINGTON, June 5 (Reuters) - Senior U.S. Republicans distanced themselves on Sunday from Donald Trump's comments about a Mexican-American judge, saying they were worried that the tone of his presidential campaign could enrage Latinos, who are a growing U.S. voting bloc.

Trump has accused U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel of harboring a bias against him in lawsuits involving fraud allegations against Trump University, the New York business man's now-defunct real estate school.

The presumptive Republican nominee has suggested Curiel's Mexican-American heritage had influenced the judge's opinion because of Trump's campaign pledge to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he "couldn't disagree more" with Trump's comments about the judge.

"I am concerned about the Hispanic vote, America is changing," McConnell told "Meet The Press." "I think it's a big mistake for our party to write off Latino Americans. I am concerned about that and I hope he will change his direction on that."

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Senior U.S. Republicans criticize Trump's remarks on Hispanic judge
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump reads the lyrics of Al Wilson's song "The Snake" during campaign event at Grumman Studios in Bethpage, New York April 6, 2016 REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump reads the lyrics of Al Wilson's song "The Snake" during campaign event at Grumman Studios in Bethpage, New York April 6, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
Supporters of U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump listen during a campaign event at Grumman Studios in Bethpage, New York April 6, 2016. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks on stage during campaign event at Grumman Studios in Bethpage, New York April 6, 2016 REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
A supporter of U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump holds a sign during a campaign event at Grumman Studios in Bethpage, New York April 6, 2016. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
Supporters of U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump cheer during a campaign event at Grumman Studios in Bethpage, New York April 6, 2016. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks on stage during campaign event at Grumman Studios in Bethpage, New York April 6, 2016 REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
Supporters of U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump cheer during a campaign event at Grumman Studios in Bethpage, New York April 6, 2016. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
A supporter of U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump takes a photo during a campaign event at Grumman Studios in Bethpage, New York April 6, 2016. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
Supporters of U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump cheer during a campaign event at Grumman Studios in Bethpage, New York April 6, 2016. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump points to supporters after a campaign event at Grumman Studios in Bethpage, New York April 6, 2016. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
A man reacts as U.S. Republican presidential candidate Trump speaks on stage during a campaign event at Grumman Studios in Bethpage, New York April 6, 2016 REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
Supporters of U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump cheer during a campaign event at Grumman Studios in Bethpage, New York April 6, 2016. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump holds up a sign during a campaign event at Grumman Studios in Bethpage, New York April 6, 2016. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump points during a campaign event at Grumman Studios in Bethpage, New York April 6, 2016. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
Ivanka Trump, daughter of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, introduces her father at a campaign rally in Bethpage, New York April 6, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
Supporters of U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump wait for campaign event to begin at Grumman Studios in Bethpage, New York April 6, 2016. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
A supporter of U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump stands with a walker in front of portable toilets before a campaign event at Grumman Studios in Bethpage, New York April 6, 2016. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
Donald Trump, president and chief executive of Trump Organization Inc. and 2016 Republican presidential candidate, speaks during a campaign event in Bethpage, New York, U.S., on Wednesday, April 6, 2016. Texas Senator Ted Cruz beat Trump in Wisconsin's Republican presidential primary on Tuesday, embarrassing the front-runner, extending an increasingly bitter nomination fight and boosting the odds of a contested national convention in July. Photographer: John Taggart/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A tattoo is seen on an attendee during a campaign event for Donald Trump, president and chief executive of Trump Organization Inc. and 2016 Republican presidential candidate, not pictured, in Bethpage, New York, U.S., on Wednesday, April 6, 2016. Texas Senator Ted Cruz beat Trump in Wisconsin's Republican presidential primary on Tuesday, embarrassing the front-runner, extending an increasingly bitter nomination fight and boosting the odds of a contested national convention in July. Photographer: John Taggart/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Attendees wait for the start of a campaign event for Donald Trump, president and chief executive of Trump Organization Inc. and 2016 Republican presidential candidate, not pictured, in Bethpage, New York, U.S., on Wednesday, April 6, 2016. Texas Senator Ted Cruz beat Trump in Wisconsin's Republican presidential primary on Tuesday, embarrassing the front-runner, extending an increasingly bitter nomination fight and boosting the odds of a contested national convention in July. Photographer: John Taggart/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Attendees wait for the start of a campaign event for Donald Trump, president and chief executive of Trump Organization Inc. and 2016 Republican presidential candidate, not pictured, in Bethpage, New York, U.S., on Wednesday, April 6, 2016. Texas Senator Ted Cruz beat Trump in Wisconsin's Republican presidential primary on Tuesday, embarrassing the front-runner, extending an increasingly bitter nomination fight and boosting the odds of a contested national convention in July. Photographer: John Taggart/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Security guards escort a protester from a campaign event for Donald Trump, president and chief executive of Trump Organization Inc. and 2016 Republican presidential candidate, not pictured, in Bethpage, New York, U.S., on Wednesday, April 6, 2016. Texas Senator Ted Cruz beat Trump in Wisconsin's Republican presidential primary on Tuesday, embarrassing the front-runner, extending an increasingly bitter nomination fight and boosting the odds of a contested national convention in July. Photographer: John Taggart/Bloomberg via Getty Images
An attendee wears an American flag at a campaign event for Donald Trump, president and chief executive of Trump Organization Inc. and 2016 Republican presidential candidate, not pictured, in Bethpage, New York, U.S., on Wednesday, April 6, 2016. Texas Senator Ted Cruz beat Trump in Wisconsin's Republican presidential primary on Tuesday, embarrassing the front-runner, extending an increasingly bitter nomination fight and boosting the odds of a contested national convention in July. Photographer: John Taggart/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Security guards escort a protester from the start of a campaign event for Donald Trump, president and chief executive of Trump Organization Inc. and 2016 Republican presidential candidate, not pictured, in Bethpage, New York, U.S., on Wednesday, April 6, 2016. Texas Senator Ted Cruz beat Trump in Wisconsin's Republican presidential primary on Tuesday, embarrassing the front-runner, extending an increasingly bitter nomination fight and boosting the odds of a contested national convention in July. Photographer: John Taggart/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Attendees wait for the start of a campaign event for Donald Trump, president and chief executive of Trump Organization Inc. and 2016 Republican presidential candidate, not pictured, in Bethpage, New York, U.S., on Wednesday, April 6, 2016. Texas Senator Ted Cruz beat Trump in Wisconsin's Republican presidential primary on Tuesday, embarrassing the front-runner, extending an increasingly bitter nomination fight and boosting the odds of a contested national convention in July. Photographer: John Taggart/Bloomberg via Getty Images
BETHPAGE, NEW YORK - APRIL 06: A supporter holds a up a book by Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump prior to a campaign rally on April 6, 2016 in Bethpage, New York. The rally comes ahead of the April 15 New York primary. (Photo by Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images)
Donald Trump, president and chief executive of Trump Organization Inc. and 2016 Republican presidential candidate, center right, waves to attendees during a campaign event in Bethpage, New York, U.S., on Wednesday, April 6, 2016. Texas Senator Ted Cruz beat Trump in Wisconsin's Republican presidential primary on Tuesday, embarrassing the front-runner, extending an increasingly bitter nomination fight and boosting the odds of a contested national convention in July. Photographer: John Taggart/Bloomberg via Getty Images
BETHPAGE, NEW YORK - APRIL 06: Supporters pose for a picture prior to a campaign rally for Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump on April 6, 2016 in Bethpage, New York. The rally comes ahead of the April 15 New York primary. (Photo by Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images)
BETHPAGE, NEW YORK - APRIL 06: Supporters gather for Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump prior to a campaign rally on April 6, 2016 in Bethpage, New York. The rally comes ahead of the April 15 New York primary. (Photo by Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images)
BETHPAGE, NEW YORK - APRIL 06: Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally on April 6, 2016 in Bethpage, New York. The rally comes ahead of the April 15 New York primary. (Photo by Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images)
BETHPAGE, NEW YORK - APRIL 06: Supporters cheer during a rally for Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump on April 6, 2016 in Bethpage, New York. The rally comes ahead of the April 15 New York primary. (Photo by Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images)
BETHPAGE, NEW YORK - APRIL 06: A Trump supporter holds up a 'White Lives Matter' sign during a rally for Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump on April 6, 2016 in Bethpage, New York. The rally comes ahead of the April 15 New York primary. (Photo by Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images)
Supporters await the arrival of US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump during a rally in Bethpage Long Island, New York on April 6, 2016. Trump looks to bounce back from his unsettling presidential primary los in Wisconsin, training his sights in the next White House contests on friendlier ground -- his home state of New York. / AFP / KENA BETANCUR (Photo credit should read KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images)
BETHPAGE, NEW YORK - APRIL 06: Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally on April 6, 2016 in Bethpage, New York. The rally comes ahead of the April 15 New York primary. (Photo by Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images)
BETHPAGE, NEW YORK - APRIL 06: Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump interacts with supporters following a campaign rally on April 6, 2016 in Bethpage, New York. The rally comes ahead of the April 15 New York primary. (Photo by Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images)
BETHPAGE, NEW YORK - APRIL 06: Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally on April 6, 2016 in Bethpage, New York. The rally comes ahead of the April 15 New York primary. (Photo by Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images)
US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses a rally in Bethpage, Long Island, New York on April 6, 2016. Trump looks to bounce back from his unsettling presidential primary los in Wisconsin, training his sights in the next White House contests on friendlier ground -- his home state of New York. / AFP / KENA BETANCUR (Photo credit should read KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images)
Donald Trump supporters yell toward people protesting Trump near the site of a campaign appearance by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in Bethpage, New York, Wednesday, April 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally, Wednesday, April 6, 2016, in Bethpage, N.Y. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump holds up a sign handed to him by a supporter after speaking at a campaign rally, Wednesday, April 6, 2016, in Bethpage, N.Y. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
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Democrats have accused Trump of racially tinged rhetoric about Latinos, including his description of Mexican immigrants as "criminals and rapists" in the speech he gave a year ago launching his campaign.

Such rhetoric has exacerbated friction between Trump and Republican party leaders such as McConnell and House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan. For the past few years, the party has been trying to broaden its appeal with Latino voters and senior Republicans are concerned that Trump's comments could cost the party votes, not only in the presidential race but in congressional races as well.

Former House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich, who has been mentioned as a possible running mate to Trump, called Trump's comments about the judge "inexcusable."

"This is one of the worst mistakes Trump has made," Gingrich told Fox News.

Curiel was born in Indiana to Mexican-immigrant parents.

"He is a member of a club or society very strongly pro Mexican, which is all fine. But I say he's got bias. I want to build a wall," Trump said in an interview on Sunday on "Face the Nation."

Asked if he believed a Muslim judge would be biased against him based on Trump's call for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the country, Trump replied, "It's possible. Yes."

McConnell said America is a nation full of immigrants -- pointing out that his wife, former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, came to the United States when she was eight and didn't speak English.

"All of us came here from somewhere else," McConnell said.

Senator Bob Corker, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on "ABC's This Week" that he did not "condone the comments" that Trump made about Curiel.

Legal scholars on the right and the left have criticized Trump for attacking the judge, saying it could harm judicial independence should he become president.

Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who is of Mexican descent, was one of the few Republicans to defend Trump. Gonzales argued in a column in The Washington Post that Trump should be allowed to question a judge's fairness, saying that questioning a judge is crucial to ensuring public trust in the courts.

But when asked about the racial element in an interview on Sunday on Fox News, Gonzales criticized Trump.

"I certainly would have taken a different approach," he said. "Whenever you say something about a judge's nationality, I think it demeans the office and hurts the judiciary as a whole."

(Additional reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Caren Bohan and Stephen Powell)


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