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Trump and Judge Curiel: What Republicans Are Saying

Here's where some of the most prominent voices in the party stand right now.
Image: Donald Trump and Judge Gonzalo Curiel
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, left, and Judge Gonzalo CurielReuters; US District Court Southern District of California

Donald Trump's comments about the "Mexican heritage" of Judge Gonzalo Curiel have split the Republican Party.

Trump has suggested that Curiel, who is presiding over a lawsuit against Trump University, may not be able to conduct a fair trial for the notoriously tough-on-immigration GOP nominee because of his "Mexican heritage." Curiel was born in Indiana to Mexican-born parents.

Some of Trump's GOP colleagues now say that they are unsure whether they can support him as their party's nominee based on rhetoric many have derided as "racist," while others have criticized the remarks but continued to say that the party’s goal is to elect Trump and defeat Hillary Clinton.

Here's where some of the most prominent voices in the party stand right now.

Not supporting Trump

Sen. Mark Kirk, Illinois

Written statement: "I cannot and will not support my party's nominee for President”

And in an interview with NBC News: "It means that I cannot support him because of what he said about the judge. That was too racist and bigoted for me."

Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina

Interview with NBC News: "I will write somebody in but I'm not supporting Mr. Trump. I'm not supporting Hillary Clinton. These are 2 very flawed choices. I've been a lawyer all my life and I've never heard anything like this before, to suggest that a judge can't fairly decide a case because of where his parents were born is a new low in a campaign with plenty of lows. I think it's un-American."

Sen. Ben Sasse, Nebraska

Tweet: "Public Service Announcement: Saying someone can't do a specific job because of his or her race is the literal definition of "racism."

Unclear or unsure about future support of Trump

Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas

Interview with NBC News: "I, like many other voters, are watching and listening, assessing what he says and what he does. And I think that's what millions of voters are doing. And that's the way the democratic process is meant to operate. … I'm giving it time and watching and assessing.” MORE: "It is obviously inappropriate to attack a judge's race or ethnicity. Beyond that, you're going to have to ask Donald."

Sen. Mike Lee, Utah

Interview with NBC News: "I don't like it. I don't agree with it.”

Sen. Susan Collins, Maine

Statement: "Donald Trump’s comments on the ethnic heritage and religion of judges are absolutely unacceptable. His statement that Judge Curiel could not rule fairly because of his Mexican heritage does not represent our American values. Mr. Trump's comments demonstrate both a lack of respect for the judicial system and the principle of separation of powers.”

More, in an interview with NBC News: " He needs to start acting more presidential. He needs to apologize for some of the previous comments that he has made. And he needs to better articulate what his vision is for a Trump presidency. He needs to go beyond just slogans and he needs to have detailed plans, programs and policies."

Gov. Brian Sandoval, Nevada

Las Vegas Review-Journal: "“I will only say that you can’t defend the indefensible,” Sandoval told the paper, adding that his vote for Trump is “not for sure.”

Gov. Rick Scott, Florida

Interview with local media: "I can tell you what's important to me is that all the candidates get their message out... I got my message out. But right now I want to talk about the tropical storm."

Sen. Jeff Flake, Arizona

Interview with NBC News: "I think that Mr. Trump needs to make some changes and we're under no obligation to support him. I commend him for winning the primary. He is the presumptive nominee but to win the general, you need to take certain positions that, perhaps, are a little modified from where he has been in the primary and that's gonna be tough… I would like to support our nominee. I really would and I'm holding out hope that we'll see some changes but it's becoming more difficult to believe that we will, I have to say that."

Gov. John Kasich, Ohio

Tweet: "Attacking judges based on their race &/or religion is another tactic that divides our country. More importantly, it is flat out wrong."

Former Gov. Jeb Bush, Florida

Tweet: "Donald Trump should retract his comments, not defend them. There is no place for racism in the GOP, or this country.”

Sen. John Thune, South Dakota

Stakeout on the Hill, quoted by AP: "There are I think conversations going on with the campaign, and hopefully that message is being clearly conveyed. But yeah, he's going to have to adapt. This is not working for him. They were inappropriate comments."

Critical but standing by the nominee

House Speaker Paul Ryan

Press conference: "Claiming a person can't do their job because of their race is sort of like the textbook definition of a racist comment… I disavow those comments.." MORE: "Do I believe that Hillary Clinton is gonna be the answer to solving these problems? I do not. I believe that we have more common ground on the policy issue of the day and we have more likelihood of getting our policies enacted with him then we do with her."

Sen. Jeff Sessions, Alabama

Interview with NBC News: “Well, it would've been nice if it were--that had not been said, for sure. But he's explained that, and he's really, feels strongly about this lawsuit. You know, he feels like it's an unjust proceeding and he should prevail and, but now he said he's gonna let his lawyer handle it and he's not gonna be continuing to comment it, and I think that's probably a good decision.”

Sen. Bob Corker, Tennessee

MSNBC's Morning Joe: "I mean, to say that somebody because of their background or their ethnicity has -- doesn't have the ability to carry something out is wrong. That's not where we are in our country." MORE: "There's still five months or so until the general election ends. This is an important time as he moves towards the convention and he's looking at the types of people that he's going to bring around him and those kinds of things. But he has time, and I just encourage him because of the negative trajectory that our country is on today to take advantage and know that there are people everywhere that would come to his aid if he would do that. And I'm hoping he's going to do that and I'm going to continue to encourage it until it's too late."

Sen. Chuck Grassley, Iowa

Interview with NBC News: "I would not say what Trump said. And if you didn't like the judge, you ought to file to go into the court and make the motions to get a new judge if you think they're unfair."

Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida

Interview with local reporters: " I continue to have strong disagreements with him on a bunch of issues and I do not agree with and quite frankly I’m very disturbed by the way he keeps referring to this judge – an American – born Indiana who he continues to raise issues about and I hope he’ll stop doing that. But that’s what the voters – this is the voice the voters have given us for this primary and we’ll see what happens.”

Sen. Rob Portman, Ohio

Washington Post interview: "It’s wrong to make an issue of ethnicity or heritage…. What Donald Trump talks about in terms of tax reform, regulatory reform, all those issues are going to give the economy a shot in the arm if we put them into practice... I’m also very concerned about Hillary Clinton’s economic reform policy and where she would take the country."

Sen. Tim Scott, South Carolina

Post and Courier interview: Called comments “racially toxic” but added "The reality of it is, we have the impact of Trump’s policies and positions compared to Hillary Clinton’s policies and positions, and I am entirely convinced the country is better off under the policies and positions of the Republican Party than they are under the Democratic Party.”

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich

Statement to NBC News: “It was unwise and inappropriate”

Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky

Interview with CNN: “I support the nominee and I signed a statement saying I would do so.” MORE on Curiel: “I think it’s a mistake."

Sen. Kelly Ayotte, New Hampshire

Statement: "His comments are offensive and wrong, and he should retract them,"

Former 2016 candidate Ben Carson

Statement: "Every human being is an individual first rather than a member of an identity group. The moment we forget that is the moment we enter into a phase of moral descent.”

Gov. Scott Walker, Wisconsin

27 News interview: “He's not yet the nominee. Officially that won't happen until the middle of July and so for me that's kind of the time frame that, in particular, I want to make sure he renounces what he says - at least in regards to this judge”

Sen. Dan Sullivan, Alaska

Interview on Morning Joe: “The statements were equating ethnicity with bias, which goes against all -- anything that we believe in America… The issue of whether he's fit to be president -- the American people are going to decide whether he's fit to be president in the next several months, and they're also going to decide whether Hillary Clinton is fit to be president.”

Sen. James Lankford, Oklahoma

Interview with NBC News: "I can tell you right now, myself and multiple others have been pretty clear to say, I don't like this type of rhetoric. I just--I don't do it personally. I don't engage in it. I don't want my kids to engage in it as well. But, at the end of the day, we pick leaders based on their policies more than we do on their rhetoric.” MORE: " I'm gonna wait and make that decision once we get to November. But I'm still gonna support the nominee of my party. And it looks like he's gonna be the nominee of my party."

Defending comments/ still endorsing

Gov. Chris Christie, New Jersey

Press conference: "People are always gonna express their opinions. Those are Donald's opinions and he has the right to express them… I know Donald Trump, I’ve known him for 14 years and Donald Trump is not a racist. And so, you know, the allegations that he is are absolutely contrary to every experience that I’ve had with him over the last 14 years.”