As Michael Reagan put it, "First time, if my father was alive, he wouldn't support GOP nominee"

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Credit: Rich Pedroncelli/AP

Donald Trump has, finally, all but united the Republican Party – in denunciation of his continued, race-based attacks on U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who is presiding over the civil lawsuits against the candidate’s Trump University.

“I disavow these comments. I regret those comments that [Trump] made,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan during a press conference Tuesday. “Claiming a person can’t do their job because of their race is sort of like the textbook definition of a racist comment … it’s absolutely unacceptable.”

And Sen. Mark Kirk, a Republican from Illinois facing a tough reelection battle this year, flat out withdrew his support for his party’s nominee, saying “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.”

Last week, Trump charged that his plan to build a wall between the U.S.-Mexican border was “an absolute conflict” of interest, charging to the Wall Street Journal that Curiel could not preside fairly over the Trump University case because he is “of Mexican heritage.” (Curiel was born in Indiana to Mexican immigrants.)

Speaking again to CNN’s Jake Tapper last Friday, Trump maintained his position: “He’s a Mexican. We’re building a wall between here and Mexico.” When Tapper asked if, by saying that Curiel could not due his job because of his race, “is that not the definition of racism?” Trump responded, “No, I don’t think so at all.”

Amid the fierce backlash from his own party, Trump put together a damage-control statement late Tuesday promising not to say anything more about Curiel or the lawsuit – after this: “It is unfortunate that my 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. … While this lawsuit should have been dismissed, it is now scheduled for trial in November. I do not intend to comment on this matter any further.”

Just one day earlier, Trump encouraged supporters on a private conference call on Monday to join his chorus by publicly questioning the judge’s credibility, two participants on the call told Bloomberg Politics. Several Republican politicians, including former Massachusetts senator Scott Brown, were involved in the call, during which Trump overturned a Sunday email from his staff that ordered his most prominent supporters – those surrogates who speak for him on cable news talk shows and at campaign appearances – to cease all talk of the lawsuit and Curiel. “Take that order and throw it the hell out,” Trump said on the call, according to Bloomberg Politics.

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Numerous other prominent Republicans have joined Ryan in disavowing Trump’s sentiments, including South Carolina’s junior senator Tim Scott – the Senate’s only black Republican – who told CNN the commentary is “racially toxic.”

Added Arnold Schwarzenegger on Twitter, “Judge Curiel is an American hero who stood up to the Mexican cartels. I was proud to appoint him when I was Gov.”

Freshly-minted presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton also issued a warning on Monday that Trump may next focus his attacks on “women judges … or maybe a judge with a disability, or perhaps one who was a former POW, or African-American.”

“He’s trying to demean and defame a federal judge who was a very accomplished federal prosecutor,” she continued on MSNBC.

“This is dangerous nonsense that undermines the rule of law, that makes him appear to be someone who has no respect for fellow Americans,” Clinton said. “And I think it is yet more evidence why this man is dangerous and divisive and disqualified from being president.”