White House chief of staff Mark Meadows on Sunday conceded that Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) is eligible to serve as vice president, rejecting a racist conspiracy theory promoted by President Donald Trump.
“I kind of can’t believe I even have to ask you this, but just a simple yes or no: Do you accept that fact ― and it is a fact ― that Sen. Kamala Harris is eligible to be vice president?” Tapper asked.
“Sure,” Meadows responded, before attacking Harris’ “liberal ideas” and the “policies born out of California that would take root” if she were to become vice president.
The racist and false claim that Harris, the daughter of Jamaican and Indian immigrants, is ineligible for the vice presidency was the subject of an op-ed by lawyer John Eastman posted Wednesday by Newsweek.
Eastman suggested that Harris can’t be vice president because her parents were not naturalized citizens at the time of her birth. (Harris was born in California.) This argument is false.
The Constitution says that only “a natural-born citizen, or a citizen of the United States,” shall be eligible to serve as president or vice president. The 14th Amendment says that anyone born or naturalized in the U.S. is a U.S. citizen.
Nonetheless, some of Trump’s allies have seized on the theory. Jenna Ellis, a legal adviser to the Trump campaign, retweeted Eastman’s op-ed on Thursday.
Trump told reporters at a press briefing Thursday that he heard Harris “doesn’t meet the requirements” to be president.
“I have no idea if that’s right,” he added. “I would have thought, I would have assumed, that the Democrats would have checked that out before she gets chosen to run for vice president.”
Asked during a press briefing Saturday if he would say Harris is eligible, Trump refused. Instead, the president said the false claim against Harris is “not something that bothers me” and that he was “not going to be pursuing it.”
Meadows on Sunday appeared to shrug off the Harris claim. He said Trump already “spoke to” the issue in his news conference a day earlier.
But Tapper pressed him on it. “So when you say, ‘sure’ ― yes, you accept that she is eligible to be vice president?”
“Yes,” Meadows said. “Yeah, yeah, yeah.”
The Harris claim echoed the racist birther conspiracy theory pushed by Trump ahead of President Barack Obama’s election in 2008. Trump and other subscribers to the theory argued falsely that Obama was born in Kenya and was therefore not eligible to be president. (Obama was born in Hawaii.)
Steve Cortes, a senior adviser to the Trump campaign, further muddied the waters in an appearance on “Fox News Sunday.”
Host Chris Wallace asked whether Trump and his campaign acknowledged that Harris is eligible to be vice president. Cortes said, “yes,” before repeating Trump’s vague statement that he wouldn’t be “pursuing” the claim.
“Isn’t this just like the birther claims the president made against Barack Obama?” Wallace asked. “Why not just say it’s wrong?”
Cortes repeated that Trump won’t be “pursuing” the claim and accused the media of trying to “create a controversy that simply doesn’t exist.”
“I don’t know why it’s incumbent upon him to opine on legal scholarship of the Constitution,” Cortes said. “I don’t think that’s his place as president. What he’s saying is, we have not made an issue of this, and we will not make an issue of this.”
Harris said she wasn’t surprised by the Trump campaign’s “dirty tactics” in an interview posted Sunday on TheGrio.
“They’re going to engage in an attempt to distract from the real issues that are impacting the American people,” Harris said. “This is going to be a knockdown, drag-out. And we’re ready.”
Watch Cortes’ full interview with “Fox News Sunday” below. His comments about Harris begin around the 30-second mark.
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