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How the controversy over Trump’s criticism of a federal judge unfolded

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Donald Trump.Brennan Linsley

Republican leaders have strong words for Donald Trump, their presumptive presidential nominee, after his remarks on the heritage of a judge presiding over lawsuits against the controversial Trump University.

The real estate tycoon has been criticized for his remarks on Hispanics, current events, and other topics, but his statements that US District Judge Gonzalo Curiel is not fit to rule on his case because he was born to Mexicans seem to be a red line for GOP operatives.

Here's a closer look at how the controversy developed:

■ As Trump gained the spotlight amid his rise in the Republican primary, attention began to turn toward Trump University, a former business facing civil-action lawsuits. In late May, Curiel ordered the release of internal documents, including "playbooks" on how to market the courses.

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■ Not even 24 hours after Speaker Paul Ryan openly endorsed Trump last week, the presumptive nominee told The Wall Street Journal that Curiel's heritage presents an "absolute conflict." Curiel was born in Indiana to parents who emigrated from Mexico. "I'm building a wall. It's an inherent conflict of interest," Trump told the Journal.

■ Trump doubled down on his comments during an interview Friday with CNN's Jake Tapper, who asked him 23 times about the remarks before this exchange:

Tapper: "If you are saying he cannot do his job because of his race, is that not the definition of racism?''

Trump: "No, I don't think so at all."

Watch the CNN segment

■ Trump's position evolved — to include Muslim judges as another group who may have a conflict of interest in presiding over a case involving him. The candidate made the comments on CBS' "Face the Nation," when asked whether he felt a Muslim judge would treat him unfairly. The same day, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich was one of the Republican leaders appearing on television to denounce the remarks about Curiel.

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Watch the CBS segment

Bloomberg reported Monday that Trump had told his supporters during a conference call to defend the comments, and that he ordered them to question the judge's credibility.

Judge Gonzalo Curiel.NYT

■ Ryan, who spent much of May declining to endorse Trump before backing him, said Tuesday morning that the remarks were "the textbook definition of racist comments," but he maintained his support of the presumptive nominee. Ryan said the party's agenda was more likely to get enacted under Trump than under Hillary Clinton.

On the same day, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie unequivocally defended Trump, POLITICO reported.

"[Q]uite frankly, I think you all are paying much too much attention on this," said Christie, who had endorsed Trump in February.

■ Trump released a statement Tuesday afternoon defending his remarks, saying they had been "misconstrued."

Related:

Paul Ryan slams Trump's judge remarks, but maintains support

Andrew Manuel Crespo: Recognizing racism in Trump's call for judge's recusal

Stephen King, Junot Díaz join more than 450 writers in condemning Trump


Material from wire services was used in this report. Nicole Hernandez can be reached at nicole.hernandez@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @NRHSJax.

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