President Donald Trump is refusing to reject false claims circulating on social media that Kamala Harris may not be legally eligible for the vice presidency because of questions surrounding the immigration status of her parents at the time she was born.
“I heard it today that she doesn't meet the requirements,” Trump said, responding to VOA’s question. “And by the way, the lawyer that wrote that piece is a very highly qualified, very talented lawyer. I have no idea, that's right. I would have thought, I would have assumed the Democrats would have checked that out before she gets chosen to run for vice president.”
Trump was referring to John Eastman, a law professor at Chapman University who floated the theory in an opinion piece published in Newsweek. A tweet containing the op-ed was retweeted earlier Thursday by Jenna Ellis, a Trump campaign adviser.
Harris was born in Oakland, California. Constitutional scholars and Supreme Court precedent have long maintained that anyone born in the U.S. is an American citizen, which makes them eligible for the presidency and the vice presidency.
“Harris is clearly eligible,” said Georgetown University Law Center professor Josh Chafetz. “She was born in the United States, and under the citizenship clause of the 14th Amendment, that means she was a citizen at birth, which makes her a natural-born citizen for presidential eligibility purposes. No serious scholar thinks otherwise.”
This is not the first time Trump has made an issue of his opponent’s citizenship. After years of promoting the “birther conspiracy” and calling for President Barack Obama to release his birth certificate, Trump acknowledged in 2016 that Obama was born in the United States.
Trump’s floating of similar birther claims about Harris was “entirely predictable” and “total nonsense,” said Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.
Trump has succeeded in politics because he is very good at defining his opponents as “the other,” Sabato added.
“Leading the birther movement against President Obama was Trump’s baptism, and his constant attacks on immigrants have continued to enthuse his base,” Sabato said. “Kamala Harris is Black, partly South Asian, and has immigrant parents, and all of this will automatically raise suspicion among the Trump blue-collar whites.”
The Biden campaign has not responded to VOA’s request for comment.