Trump returning to Texas as tempers flare and judicial debate roars

Donald J. Trump is on his way back to Texas. In this photo, he spoke to media before a rally at the Fort Worth Convention Center on Feb. 26, 2016.
Donald J. Trump is on his way back to Texas. In this photo, he spoke to media before a rally at the Fort Worth Convention Center on Feb. 26, 2016. Special to the Star-Telegram

As Donald Trump prepares to head to Texas next week, he isn’t expecting a warm welcome from everyone, particularly the Texas congressman who called the presidential nominee a racist in a letter released Monday.

The New York billionaire businessman’s recent comments about immigration — and his notion that a California judge involved in a case regarding Trump University should withdraw because of his “Mexican heritage” — continues to prompt heated debate throughout Texas and nationwide.

It’s only likely to intensify even more in the wake of the move by an embattled Trump late Monday to get supporters to intensify their attacks on the judge and the media, even as the backlash against the billionaire’s latest offensive continues to build.

“We will overcome,” Trump said in a conference call with supporters, according to two of the people who were on the phone with them and shared their notes anonymously with Bloomberg News.

There was no mention of apologizing or backing away from his widely criticized remarks about U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who is overseeing cases against the Trump University real-estate program.

When former Arizona Governor Jan Brewer interrupted the discussion to inform Trump that his own campaign had asked surrogates to stop talking about the lawsuit in an e-mail on Sunday, Trump repeatedly demanded to know who sent the memo, and immediately overruled his staff.

“Take that order and throw it the hell out,” Trump said.

He went on to berate his own staff. “Are there any other stupid letters that were sent to you folks?” Trump said. “That’s one of the reasons I want to have this call, because you guys are getting sometimes stupid information from people that aren’t so smart.”

Also during the call, Trump dismissed Curiel as a “member of La Raza,” a Latino advocacy group. Curiel is affiliated with La Raza Lawyers of California, a Latino bar association.

A clearly irritated Trump told his supporters to attack journalists who ask questions about the lawsuit and his comments about the judge. “The people asking the questions — those are the racists,” Trump said.

Texan’s letter

U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville, wrote an open letter to Trump criticizing “your ignorant anti-immigrant opinions, your border wall rhetoric and your recent bigoted attack on an American jurist.”

“Mr. Trump, you’re a racist and you can take your border wall and shove it up your ass.”

Few details about Trump’s trip have been publicly released yet, but Trump is expected to arrive in Texas June 16 — the same day Democrats kick off their state convention in San Antonio.

While here, though, Trump is expected to attend GOP fundraising events in Dallas, and possibly a rally in the area as well, before heading to Houston and San Antonio, The Dallas Morning News reported.

I’m glad he’s not coming to Fort Worth.

State Rep. Ramon Romero, D-Fort Worth

“I’m glad he’s not coming to Fort Worth,” said state Rep. Ramon Romero, D-Fort Worth. “He can stay on that side of the Metroplex and get their money.

“I hope the well runs dry for him here.”

Republican support?

Some Republicans question why the former reality TV star is coming now, when he didn’t make it to Dallas for the Republican Party of Texas’ state convention last month.

Fort Worth’s Pat Carlson, a Trump supporter, said she still wishes U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who ended his presidential bid last month, would endorse Trump, to finally unite the party.

“At the very least, I would hope the Cruz supporters, and those sitting on the fence in this election, would get on board behind our nominee before the GOP convention,” said Carlson, a former Tarrant County Republican Party chair.

Romero said he is among those who still wonders why Cruz won’t endorse the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

Devout Cruz supporter state Sen. Konni Burton, R-Colleyville, likened her situation to that of New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, who was “really busy” and unable to attend a Trump rally when he came to her town.

“I’m in the same boat as Gov. Martinez and won’t be able to attend his events,” Burton said.

Fund raising efforts

Trump’s visit comes after presumed Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said she believes Texas may be in play this November.

When Clinton was recently told she wouldn’t win Texas, she said “if black and Latino voters come out and vote, we could win Texas.” Many Republicans discount that notion.

Trump last visited Fort Worth in February, holding a rally that drew thousands to the Fort Worth Convention Center.

Trump, who self-funded his primary bid, is beginning efforts to raise funding for his campaign as well as to help Republicans candidates across the country.

On Monday, his campaign even sent out a fundraising letter, asking supporters to help “defeat Crooked Hillary.”

“You will be so proud of your country when I’m President, and you’ll remember what it’s like to win again!” the email signed by Trump stated.

Trump’s visit also comes shortly after news reports show that Trump University closed its doors in Texas after state officials began looking into the real-estate business here.

Trump last visited Fort Worth in February, holding a rally that drew thousands to the Fort Worth Convention Center days before the March 1 primary. He announced an endorsement from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie before that rally.

In that primary, former presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz won Texas with 43.76 percent of the vote, to Trump’s 26.7 percent.

Trump staffers didn’t immediately respond to requests for information about his upcoming Texas visit.

Staff writer John Gravois contributed to this report, which includes material from Bloomberg News and The Washington Post.

Anna Tinsley: 817-390-7610, @annatinsley

The former presidential candidate and New Jersey governor endorses his former rival and says he's "the best person to beat Hillary Clinton in November."

WARNING: Graphic language. Donald Trump protesters and supporters argued before, during and after Friday's rally in Fort Worth. At one point, police divided the crowd with their bicycles. (Ryan Osborne/Star-Telegram)

U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela’s Open Letter to Donald Trump

June 6, 2016

Donald Trump

725 Fifth Avenue

New York, NY 10022

Dear Mr. Trump,

As the United States Representative for the 34th Congressional District of Texas, I do not disagree with everything you say. I agree that the United States Government has largely failed our veterans, and those of us who represent the people in Congress have the obligation to rectify the Veterans Administration’s deficiencies. I also believe that the Mexican government and our own State Department must be much more aggressive in addressing cartel violence and corruption in Mexico, especially in the Mexican border state of Tamaulipas. And clearly, criminal felons who are here illegally should be immediately deported. There might even be a few other things on which we can agree.

However, your ignorant anti-immigrant opinions, your border wall rhetoric, and your recent bigoted attack on an American jurist are just plain despicable.

Your position with respect to the millions of undocumented Mexican workers who now live in this country is hateful, dehumanizing, and frankly shameful. The vast number of these individuals work in hotels, restaurants, construction sites, and agricultural fields across the United States. If I had to guess, your own business enterprises either directly or indirectly employ more of these workers than most other businesses in our country. Thousands of our businesses would come to a grinding halt if we invoked a policy that would require "mass deportation" as you and many of your supporters would suggest. That is precisely why the Republican-leaning U.S. Chamber of Commerce agrees that these workers deserve a national immigration policy that would give them a pathway to citizenship.

While you would build more and bigger walls on the U.S.-Mexico border, I would tear the existing wall to pieces. No doubt Mexico has its problems, but it is also our third-largest trading partner. U.S. Chamber of Commerce has documented that this trade relationship is responsible for six million jobs in the United States. In 2015, the U.S. imported $296 billion in goods from Mexico while exporting $235 billion in products manufactured in this country to Mexico. The Great Wall of China is historically obsolete, and President Ronald Reagan famously declared, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall … " while urging the Soviet Union to destroy the barrier that divided West and East Berlin. Why any modern-thinking person would ever believe that building a wall along the border of a neighboring country, which is both our ally and one of our largest trading partners, is frankly astounding and asinine.

I should also point out that thousands of Americans of Mexican descent that you mistakenly refer to as “Mexicans” have valiantly served the United States in every conflict since the Civil War. While too numerous to list, let me educate you about a few of these brave Medal of Honor recipients:

Master Sergeant Jose Lopez, from my own hometown of Brownsville, Texas, fought in World War II. Lopez was awarded the United States’ highest military decoration for valor in combat - the Medal of Honor - for his heroic actions during the Battle of the Bulge, in which he single handedly repulsed a German infantry attack, killing at least 100 enemy troops. If you ever run into Kris Kristofferson, ask him about Jose Lopez because as a young man Mr. Kristofferson recalls the 1945 parade honoring Sergeant Lopez as an event he will never forget.

In 1981, President Reagan presented Master Sergeant Roy Benavides with the Medal of Honor for fighting in what has been described as “6 hours in hell.” In Vietnam, Sergeant Benavides suffered 37 separate bullet, bayonet and shrapnel wounds to his face, leg, head and stomach while saving the lives of eight men. In fact, when awarding the honor to Benavides, President Reagan, turned to the media and said, “if the story of his heroism were a movie script, you would not believe it.”

You have now descended to a new low in your racist attack of an American jurist, U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel, by calling him a “Mexican” simply because he ruled against you in a case in which you are being accused of fraud, among other accusations. Judge Curiel is one of 124 Americans of Hispanic descent who have served this country with honor and distinction as federal district judges. In fact, the first Hispanic American ever named to the federal bench in the United States, Judge Reynaldo G. Garza, was also from Brownsville, Texas, and was appointed by President John F. Kennedy in 1961.

Before you dismiss me as just another “Mexican,” let me point out that my great-great grandfather came to this country in 1857, well before your own grandfather. His grandchildren (my grandfather and his brothers) all served our country in World War I and World War II. His great-grandson, my father, served in the U.S. Army and, coincidentally, was one of the first “Mexican” federal judges ever appointed to the federal bench.

I would like to end this letter in a more diplomatic fashion, but I think that you, of all people, understand why I cannot. I will not presume to speak on behalf of every American of Mexican descent, for every undocumented worker born in Mexico who is contributing to our country every day or, for that matter, every decent citizen in Mexico. But, I am sure that many of these individuals would agree with me when I say: ‘Mr. Trump, you’re a racist and you can take your border wall and shove it up your ass.’


Filemon Vela

Member of Congress