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Trump says federal judge is biased because of ‘Mexican heritage’

Donald Trump.
Donald Trump.Damon Winter/The New York Times

Donald Trump told the Wall Street Journal that a federal judge who ordered the release of Trump University documents had a conflict of interest because he is of “Mexican heritage.”

“I’m building a wall. It’s an inherent conflict of interest,” the likely Republican nominee said of US District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, according to an article published Thursday evening.

There are at least three lawsuits that allege Trump University failed to deliver on promises to teach paying customers real estate secrets. Two of those suits are presided over by Curiel, who last week ordered internal Trump University documents to be released.

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Trump’s attorneys had argued against their release, saying the documents contained trade secrets.

The internal documents revealed aggressive sales tactics at the now defunct Trump University: the “playbooks” encouraged employees to guide customers through “the roller coaster of emotions” and, citing a Yale study, listed the most persuasive words in the English language.

On Thursday, Trump tweeted out that he planned to reopen the school after the litigation was over.

Trump has previously questioned whether Curiel’s Hispanic heritage made him biased in the Trump University litigation. He’s also referred to the judge’s actions as a “disgrace,” and called him a “hater of Donald Trump.”

In his comments to The Wall Street Journal, Trump also asserted that Curiel was a former colleague and friend of one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys. That attorney acknowledged the two worked together in the US Attorney’s Office, but dismissed the notion that there was any conflict of interest, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Hillary Clinton, Trump’s likely Democratic adversary in the presidential election, also weighed in this week, calling Trump University a “fraudulent scheme”.