Mr. Trump accused the judge of bias, falsely said he was Mexican and seemed to issue a threat.
“They ought to look into Judge Curiel, because what Judge Curiel is doing is a total disgrace,” Mr. Trump said. “O.K.? But we will come back in November. Wouldn’t that be wild if I am president and come back and do a civil case?”
David Post, a retired law professor who now writes for the Volokh Conspiracy, a conservative-leaning law blog, said those comments had crossed a line.
“This is how authoritarianism starts, with a president who does not respect the judiciary,” Mr. Post said. “You can criticize the judicial system, you can criticize individual cases, you can criticize individual judges. But the president has to be clear that the law is the law and that he enforces the law. That is his constitutional obligation.”
“If he is signaling that that is not his position, that’s a very serious constitutional problem,” Mr. Post said.
Beyond the attack on judicial independence is a broader question of Mr. Trump’s commitment to the separation of powers and to the principles of federalism enshrined in the Constitution. Randy E. Barnett, a law professor at Georgetown and an architect of the first major challenge to President Obama’s health care law, said he had grave doubts on both fronts.
“You would like a president with some idea about constitutional limits on presidential powers, on congressional powers, on federal powers,” Professor Barnett said, “and I doubt he has any awareness of such limits.”At The Washington Post, Callum Borchers reports that CNN's Jake Tapper asked Trump about his repeated attacks.
Actually, Tapper didn't quite get to form a question. Trump interjected to talk about Clinton's emails. So Tapper tried to steer the conversation back to whether Trump's complaint about U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel was racist. Trump deflected again. Tapper tried again. And again.
In all, Tapper made an astounding 23 follow-up attempts. This moment right here — with this look on Tapper's face — perfectly encapsulates the exchange.
Tapper's relentlessness ultimately paid off. He finally got a straight answer out of the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.TAPPER: If you are saying he cannot do his job because of his race, is that not the definition of racism?Tapper presumably had other subjects he would have liked to get to. Trump likely figured as much and assumed he could stall long enough for his interviewer to move on. That's usually how it goes.
TRUMP: No, I don't think so at all.
But Tapper refused to drop the subject until Trump offered a yes-or-no answer. It was clearly an exhausting effort. But it showed that even Donald J. Trump can be worn down by a journalist who never gives up.