Donald Trump's comments that a federal judge could not be impartial because of his ethnicity shouldn't raise concerns about who Trump would nominate to the federal bench, Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley said.
Trump said last week that U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel should recuse himself from lawsuits related to Trump University. Trump said he plans to build a wall to prevent undocumented Mexican immigrants from entering the United States and that Curiel had a conflict of interest because he is of Mexican descent.
Curiel's parents were from Mexico, but he was born in Indiana.
"The president is only one-half of the process, as you know with [Judge Merrick] Garland. And the Senate's the other half," Grassley said Monday. "And we're a check on the president."
The Iowa Republican was referring to President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, who Senate Republicans have vowed not to consider.
Senators on both sides of the aisle have characterized Trump's comments about Curiel as unacceptable and racist.
"I would not say what Trump said," Grassley said.
Trump's comments also raised concerns about his respect for the judicial branch of government.
"Anyone who cares about our independent federal judiciary should be deeply troubled by these dangerous comments, which threaten to undermine the legitimacy of our justice system and of any judge or judicial nominee with a diverse background," said Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., the ranking member on Judiciary.
Grassley said Trump's comments do not raise concerns about who he would nominate to the federal courts since the Senate would have to confirm his picks.
Trump recently detailed who he would consider for a Supreme Court appointment. And that, Grassley said, also allays concerns about who else he would choose for judicial appointments.
"Even if he was picking people for the lower courts, you wouldn't expect anything different from what he'd say for the Supreme Court," Grassley
Grassley also suggested Trump's propensity for filing lawsuits showed some level of respect for the judicial branch.
"He must respect the judiciary," Grassley said. "I've seen statistics that he's won over 400 cases, only lost 30."
An extensive USA Today analysis of Trump's legal actions found that Trump has won 451 cases and lost 38 of the more than 3,500 legal actions filed. Trump also settled around 100 cases. The analysis also pointed out that the number of cases involving Trump is unprecedented for any major party's presidential nominee.
Grassley said that the controversy over Trump's comments was not all that important to his constituents. He said over the course of eight town hall meetings in Iowa last week, he was only asked one question about Trump's comments about Curiel.
"Iowans are more interested in economic security or jobs and the economy, stuff like that, than they are on this issue," Grassley said.