California's primary Tuesday is the biggest delegate prize in the Democratic nominating season.

  • Hillary Clinton eyes her spot in history and wins the California primary.
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  • Donald Trump says he understands his responsibility to Republicans
  • The revolutionary nature of a female nominee has been nearly overlooked this campaign season
  • Read more California primary coverage here

Donald Trump says he was 'justified' in questioning judge of Mexican heritage

Donald Trump issued a long statement Tuesday neither apologizing nor retracting his race-based criticism of a federal judge, but rather insisting that the questions he raised were justified.

Trump noted that he has friends and employees who are of "Mexican and Hispanic descent."

"It is unfortunate that my comments have been misconstrued as a categorical attack against people of Mexican heritage," Trump said.

"I do not feel that one’s heritage makes them incapable of being impartial, but, based on the rulings that I have received in the Trump University civil case, I feel justified in questioning whether I am receiving a fair trial," Trump said.

The statement was notable both for Trump's attempt to backtrack somewhat from his caustic criticism of the judge and for the lack of bombast that usually characterizes Trump's news releases.

His racial criticism of Judge Gonzalo Curiel unleashed a firestorm, leading to open revolt among Republicans on Capitol Hill.

Trump had said the Indiana-born jurist had a "conflict of interest" because Trump wants to build a wall to deter illegal immigration and Curiel's parents are Mexican immigrants.

Earlier Tuesday, Speaker Paul D. Ryan called Trump's criticism "a textbook definition of a racist comment."

And even GOP leader Mitch McConnell, in a rare public rebuke, urged Trump to "quit attacking" minority groups and "get on message."

Trump's lengthy statement Tuesday appeared as an attempt to deflect the criticism without backing off his criticisms.

He stood by his initial assertion that Curiel — who was appointed to the state court by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, and to the federal bench by President Obama — was not fair, even though Trump has not sought to have him removed from the Trump University case.

"Given my unique circumstances as nominee of the Republican Party and the core issues of my campaign that focus on illegal immigration, jobs and unfair trade, I have concerns as to my ability to receive a fair trial," Trump said.

"Questions were raised regarding the Obama-appointed judge's impartiality. It is a fair question. I hope it is not the case."

Trump appeared to want the last word on the subject, but that seemed unlikely.

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