The Slatest

Trump Judicial Nominee Probably Didn’t Call Undocumented Immigrants “Maggots” (Updated Post)

Michael Truncale.
Michael Truncale.
Truncale for Texas

Update, April 19, 2018, at 3:45 p.m.: Andrew Hudson, a spokesman for the Department of Justice, contacted me after this post went up and explained that Truncale actually said “with regard to immigration, we must not continue to have the magnets coming in,” not “with regard to immigration, we must not continue to have the maggots coming in.” According to Hudson, Truncale—who was discussing immigration at a 2012 candidate forum—was “referring to entitlement programs available to illegal aliens that would draw them here and give them a reason to stay.” Hudson also pointed to a different video in which Truncale, in speaking about immigration, clearly uses the word magnet:

While the audio from the 2012 candidate forum isn’t clear, it appears likely that Hudson is correct and Truncale did say “magnet” rather than “maggot.”

Original post: Next week, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold hearings on the nomination of Michael Truncale, whom Donald Trump selected to sit on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. A longtime Republican donor and activist, Truncale built his career opposing progressive policies, including the Affordable Care Act, gun control, and abortion access. He also appears to have referred to undocumented immigrants as “maggots.”

Truncale made this comment in 2012, when running for Congress in Texas’ 14th Congressional District, a seat that came open upon the retirement of Rep. Ron Paul. (He ultimately lost, coming in third place in the GOP primary.) During a candidate forum hosted by the Galveston County Republican Party and the Republican Network of Galveston County, Truncale said that the state’s Southern border is “very porous.” He continued:

And as a result of the nature of that border we have all sort of bad influences coming in. We have drugs, we have illegal gangs, there is the possibility of bombs from a host of other countries and people from overseas and we must secure that border. I think we should do it with boots on the ground. As a citizen taxpayer, I think that we should take some of the equipment that is coming back from Iraq that citizens have already paid for and instead of sending it to some warehouse in Nebraska or some place, let’s get it to the border patrol. … There can be some fencing, there can be electronic surveillance, and things of that nature to secure the border. But that’s the first thing. 

Truncale then added that “with regard to immigration, we must not continue to have the maggots coming in.”

It is difficult to read this statement, first flagged by Harsh Voruganti of the nonpartisan legal blog the Vetting Room, as anything other than a reference to undocumented immigrants. The apparent slur raises obvious questions about Truncale’s impartiality in cases involving Latinos and immigrants, as well as his overall fitness for the bench. Judges may hold strong feelings about border security. But Truncale’s decision to publicly malign unauthorized immigrants raises doubts about his ability to separate personal prejudices from his professional duties.

In that respect, Truncale resembles Jeff Mateer, Trump’s previous nominee to the Eastern District of Texas. Mateer notoriously called transgender children part of “Satan’s plan.” (The White House eventually withdrew his nomination.) Like Mateer, Truncale was recommended to Trump by Texas Republican Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn. Presumably, Cruz and Cornyn chose him because of his enduring support for the GOP: Truncale served on the executive committee of the Texas Republican Party from 2006 to 2014 and has donated nearly $7,000 to Cornyn’s campaigns over the past dozen years. (He also gave Cruz $1,000 in 2015.) Moreover, Truncale served as a Republican delegate for John McCain in 2008 and volunteered for the Trump campaign. (He has spent his legal career at the firm Orgain, Bell & Tucker, practicing civil defense and white-collar criminal defense.)

Cornyn and Cruz might’ve hoped that Truncale would prove to be less controversial than Mateer. But he is likely to face tough questions at his hearing next week, as Democrats and some Republicans have lost their patience with openly biased nominees.