Donald Trump said Tuesday that while he thinks he has received unfair rulings from a federal judge in San Diego in a civil class-action lawsuit against now-defunct Trump University, he will no longer comment on the situation.
The presumptive Republican presidential nominee has been critical of U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, an appointee of President Barack Obama, calling him a “hater” and referring to the Indiana-born judge as a Mexican.
In a two-page statement, Trump said his comments have been misconstrued as a categorical attack against people of Mexican heritage.
“I am friends with and employ thousands of people of Mexican and Hispanic descent,” he said.
Trump acted after House Speaker Paul Ryan, the country’s top elected Republican, blasted Trump for making the “textbook definition of a racist comment.”
Behind the scenes, the billionaire real estate developer has been pressured from friends and family to back down, fearful of the damage that may be done to his prospects in the Nov. 8 election, a source close to the Trump campaign told Reuters.
Trump said Tuesday all judges should be fair and impartial, and that he doesn’t feel that one’s heritage makes them incapable of being impartial.
“Based on some of the rulings I have received in the Trump University civil case, I feel justified in questioning whether I am receiving a fair trial,” he said.
Trump said his attorneys have continually demonstrated that students who participated in Trump University were provided a substantive, valuable education based upon a curriculum developed by professors from Northwestern University, Columbia Business School, Stanford University and other respected institutions.
Over a five-year period, more than 10,000 paying students filled out surveys giving the courses high marks and expressing their overwhelming satisfaction with Trump University’s programs, Trump said.
For those students who decided Trump University was not for them, he said, the company had a generous refund policy, offering a full refund to any student who asked for their money back within three days of signing up for a program or by the end of the first day of any multi-day program, whichever came later.
A nationwide class-action lawsuit and a California class-action suit accuse Trump University of engaging in deceptive practices and scamming thousands of students who enrolled, thinking it would make them rich in the real estate market.
Students at the shuttered real estate school paid as much as $35,000 to attend, according to documents in the class-action suit unsealed by Curiel at the behest of the Washington Post.
The lawsuits allege that Trump University falsely gave the impression that it was an accredited university, that students would be taught by experts selected by the billionaire, and that students would get a year of mentoring.
Trump’s lawyers argued that many students gave the real estate program positive ratings and those who failed to succeed are themselves to blame.
Trial is scheduled for Nov. 28.
City News Service and Reuters contributed to this article.