A growing number of Republican lawmakers and strategists fear that Donald Trump’s hostile remarks about minorities and his unorthodox strategy have imperiled his campaign at the end of a five-week head start on Hillary Clinton that they hoped would fortify him heading into the general election.

Their concerns increased again Sunday after Trump said he believed a Muslim judge might treat him unfairly because he wants to temporarily ban most foreign Muslims from entering the country. The remark was an expansion on repeated assertions over the past week that an American-born judge overseeing a fraud case against him should recuse himself because of his “Mexican heritage.”

“If it were a Muslim judge, would you also feel like they wouldn’t be able to treat you fairly because of that policy of yours?” host John Dickerson asked on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

“It’s possible, yes. Yeah. That would be possible, absolutely,” Trump replied.

While Republicans credit Trump for making some strides after vanquishing his final Republican opponents last month, many are concerned about repeated comments singling out people for criticism on the basis of race or religion. The attacks in the Trump University case also underscore the extent to which Trump, who is traveling overseas later this month to visit some of his golf courses, commingles his private business interests with his presidential campaign.

Finally, many Republicans are also unnerved by Trump’s decision to continue picking fights with fellow Republicans and spend time and resources campaigning in California and other Democratic-leaning states that he is extremely unlikely to win in November.


The prevailing view among prominent Republicans is that Trump still has the time and ability to make the necessary course corrections, especially given Clinton’s vulnerabilities. But they see some acute problems in the way he has conducted himself in recent days.

Republican strategist Brian Walsh, a former spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, quickly took to social media after Trump’s remarks on Muslims on Sunday: “I don’t care if he’s the nominee – Republicans should loudly condemn this racist, nonsensical rhetoric by Trump,” he tweeted.

Walsh, who does not support Trump at the moment, said in an interview that Republican leaders should not hesitate to condemn comments that are “the definition of racism.”

“It’s very toxic for other Republican campaigns and for the party as a whole,” he said. “It’s very concerning.”

The remark on a theoretical Muslim jurist followed his repeated comments arguing that U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who is presiding over fraud lawsuits against his Trump University education business, should have recused himself because “he’s a Mexican.” Trump says his desire to build a wall on the border with Mexico was in conflict with the judge’s ethnic background; Curiel was born in Indiana to Mexican immigrant parents.

Republican leaders including Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who both support Trump, have criticized those statements.


“I couldn’t disagree more with a statement like that,” said McConnell on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” though he repeatedly refused to say whether the comments were by definition racist.

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich, another Trump booster, also criticized him on “Fox News Sunday.”

“This is one of the worst mistakes Trump has made, and I think it’s inexcusable,” said Gingrich. He added: “If a liberal were to attack Justice Clarence Thomas on the grounds that he’s black, we would all go crazy.”

Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., a longtime party strategist and Trump supporter, said that the mogul needs to “move from a primary message to more of a general election message” and “to start trying to find ways to reach out to groups he doesn’t need to win, but he needs to make sure he’s not annihilated among,” such as blacks and Hispanics.

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