Kirk: Trump doesn't have 'temperament necessary' to be president

U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, a Highland Park Republican facing a tough re-election fight in November, rebuked presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump Tuesday in harsh terms despite earlier comments he “certainly would” support the party's candidate.

Kirk's statement Tuesday said Trump lacks the “temperament necessary” to be president. The senator's decision not to support Trump follows the controversial businessman's recent comments that federal Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel was too biased to preside over a lawsuit involving Trump University because of his Mexican heritage.

“I find Donald Trump's belief that an American-born judge of Mexican descent is incapable of fairly presiding over his case is not only dead wrong, it is un-American,” Kirk's statement read in part.

Kirk, however, did not express support for presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

“While I oppose the Democratic nominee, Donald Trump's latest statements, in context with past attacks on Hispanics, women and the disabled like me, make it certain that I cannot and will not support my party's nominee for president regardless of the political impact on my candidacy or the Republican Party,” he said.

Kirk's disavowal of Trump follows weeks of criticism by Democratic U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth of Hoffman Estates trying to tie Kirk to Trump. Kirk previously had said he “certainly would” support Trump if nominated and had called the real estate mogul a “riverboat gamble” that might help his campaign in the end.

Duckworth, a second-term House member trying to win Kirk's seat in November, has been sharply critical of Kirk's Trump comments. And her campaign Tuesday further sought to compare the presidential candidate's past remarks with the timing of Kirk's criticism.

“Apparently for Mark Kirk, it's acceptable to refer to Mexicans as rapists; to propose banning Muslims from entering the country; to call women fat pigs and dogs; to mock a reporter's disability; and to insult just about everyone who doesn't look like Donald Trump,” Duckworth campaign manager Matt McGrath said in a statement.

For his part, Trump released a statement at nearly the same time as Kirk saying his “comments have been misconstrued as a categorical attack against people of Mexican heritage.”

“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,” he said.

Kirk's announcement Tuesday highlights the issues a Trump nomination could cause for Republican candidates who would have to share the ballot with him. Some Republicans are concerned that their presumptive nominee could cost them votes in November.

Yet, Trump won millions of votes during the Republican primary process and triumphed in Illinois by a wide margin. So disavowals could turn off Trump's vocal supporters.

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan tried to walk that line in answering questions about the same federal judge hours before Kirk's announcement.

“Claiming a person can't do their job because of their race is sort of like the textbook definition of a racist comment,” Ryan continued. “I think that should be absolutely disavowed. It's absolutely unacceptable. But do I believe that Hillary Clinton is the answer? No, I do not.”

In Illinois, both Kirk and Gov. Bruce Rauner, Illinois' GOP party leader, have said they won't attend the party's summer nominating convention in Cleveland.

“I am disgusted by these recent comments, and as I've said many times, I'm appalled by the rhetoric in the presidential race,” Rauner said in a statement. “Those comments do not reflect the values of the Republican Party. They do not reflect the values of America.”

Kirk is facing his first re-election campaign for Senate after serving five terms in Congress from the north suburban 10th Congressional District. The Republican currently holding that seat, U.S. Rep. Bob Dold of Kenilworth, has also said he won't support Trump. And last month, U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren of Plano said he was “not sold” on Trump.

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