From the June 6 edition of NBC's Late Night with Seth Meyers:
SETH MEYERS (HOST): Donald Trump today ordered his supporters to continue attacking the judge overseeing a class action lawsuit against him regarding his defunct real estate education program, Trump University. Some have called Trump's attacks “racist,” while others have called them “very racist.” And now GOP leaders are squirming as they're trying to condemn Trump, while also continuing to support him. For more on this, it's time for a closer look.
So there's been a lot of talk about Trump and lawsuits recently. And even Trump tweeted this on Thursday: “Wow, USA Today did todays cover story on my record in lawsuits. Verdict: 450 wins, 38 losses. Isn't that what you want for your president?” I've got to be honest, I don't know if I do want a president with 488 lawsuits, because that's the number sticking in my head.
Now the current lawsuit that's getting all the attention regarding Trump University. First some specifics of the case itself. Trump University was founded in 2005, promising to teach people how to make money off real estate. But as The Washington Post reported, it wasn't even a university, or even a school. It was just “a series of seminars held in hotel ballrooms across the country that promised attendees they could get rich quick but were mostly devoted to enriching the people who ran them.”
Trump University is the subject of two class action lawsuits by thousands of students who claim they were defrauded, and a separate suit filed by the New York attorney general. And last week, a judge in one of those cases ordered the release of internal Trump University documents that revealed some of the unsavory methods salesmen used to convince clients to buy Trump University products.
BROOKE BALDWIN: Newly released court documents reveal damning accusations against the man who in a little more than a month will officially become the Republican nominee for president.
SHEPARD SMITH: These court documents filled with former Trump University staffers calling it a “scheme” and a “fraud,” and a, quote, “total lie.”
JAMES ROSEN: The documents also include a company playbook that urged the sales team to push hard to enroll students, even when they were financially strapped. Down even to a single mother of three who, quote, “may need money for food.”
MEYERS: But the sales techniques weren't the only questionable part of Trump University. There were also the instructors who Trump promised to hand-pick. But, as a former Trump University employee told The Washington Post, quote, “The Trump University instructors and mentors were a joke.” And in true Trump style, not only were they a joke, but many of them had gone through bankruptcy themselves.
[An] instructor told The Washington Post, quote, “Here is the truth, when I was at Trump Universitty, I had not one interaction with him ever. Not one.”
And when Trump was personally named in the lawsuit how did he, the man who would be directly involved in hand-picking the instructors, respond?
STEVEN BALL: First he says, you know, I'm going to hand-pick your professors, I'm intimately involved.
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL: That's what he tells the customers.
STEVEN BALL: That's what he tells the customers. Then, when he gets sued personally, his lawyers immediately move to remove him personally and their language is, he was largely absent from the company.
MEYERS: He was largely absent. His name was on it.
So those are just some of the claims at stake in these lawsuits. But rather than respond to the substance of those allegations, Trump has decided to go after the judge presiding over the class action lawsuits personally, in a way that can only be described as incredibly racist.
HOST: Donald Trump is escalating his attacks on the federal judge overseeing the fraud lawsuits against Trump University.
HOST: Trump telling The Wall Street Journal that Indiana-born judge Gonzalo Curiel's Mexican heritage presents an, quote, “absolute conflict,” saying, quote, “I'm building a wall. It's an inherent conflict of interest.”
JAKE TAPPER: If you are saying he can't do his job because of his race, is that not the definition of racism?
DONALD TRUMP: No, I don't think so at all.
TRUMP: No, he's proud of his heritage. I respect him for that.
TAPPER: You're saying he can't do his job because of that.
TRUMP: Look, he's proud of his heritage. OK, I'm building a wall.
MEYERS: Now to be clear, claiming that someone cannot do their job because of their race is, by definition, racism, period. And perhaps most entertaining, Trump unleashed this rhetoric just as many members of the GOP finally caved in and voiced their support for him. And now, as punishment, they've had to do their best to dodge when confronted with Trump's latest racist outburst.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: He says that when he questions whether the judge can be fair because of his Mexican heritage that is not racist. Do you agree?
SEN. BOB CORKER (R-TN): Look, I don't condone the comments and we can press on to another topic.
CHUCK TODD: He essentially said he cannot be impartial because he's Hispanic. Is that not a racist statement?
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): I couldn't disagree more with a statement like that.
TODD: Is it a racist statement?
MCCONNELL: I couldn't disagree more with what he had to say.
TODD: OK, but do you think it's a racist statement?
MCCONNELL: I don't agree with what he had to say.
MEYERS: But maybe the most ridiculous reaction from a GOP leader came from House Speak Paul Ryan, who's been hailed in the media as the GOP savior, a serious leader who could unite the party, broaden its appeal, and focus on substance. Ryan endorsed Trump on Thursday, just in time to get asked about Trump's racist attack on Judge Curiel, and said this.
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI): Look, the comment about the judge the other day just was out of left field for my mind.
MEYERS: Out of left field? Trump built his entire political career on questioning the legitimacy of the first black president.
Poor Paul Ryan. He waited and waited and waited and this happened basically the day he finally endorsed Trump.
Republicans can't pretend to be suddenly shocked and offended. This is who Trump was before this latest outburst. And this is who they're lining up to support.