U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday that he had heard Democratic vice-presidential running mate Kamala Harris was not eligible to serve, stoking a false claim echoing the baseless “birther” theory he had promoted about former President Barack Obama.
At a White House news conference, Mr. Trump was asked about “claims circulating on social media” that Ms. Harris was not eligible and whether he could say she met the legal requirements for Vice-President.
“I heard it today that she doesn’t meet the requirements. And, by the way, the lawyer that wrote that piece is a very highly qualified, very talented lawyer. I have no idea if that’s right,” said Mr. Trump.
“I would have assumed the Democrats would have checked that out before she gets chosen to run for Vice-President,” he said.
“But that’s a very serious — you’re saying that — they’re saying that she doesn’t qualify because she wasn't born in this country.”
The reporter replied that Ms. Harris was born in the United States but her parents might not have been permanent residents at the time.
Mr. Trump appeared to be referring to a Newsweek op-ed by a conservative law professor wrongly claiming the California Senator was not eligible to serve as Vice-President or President because of the immigration status of her parents when she was born.
Ms. Harris was born in Oakland, California in 1964 to a father from Jamaica and a mother from India.
Claims against Obama
Mr. Trump earned national political prominence by promoting the “birther” lie that Mr. Obama, America’s first black President, was not born in the United States.
He grudgingly acknowledged late in his 2016 presidential campaign that Mr. Obama was born in the United States. In his Newsweek op-ed, Chapman University law professor John Eastman claimed some “commentators” said Ms. Harris was ineligible as she was not a “natural born citizen” as her parents were not naturalised U.S .citizens at the time of her birth. According to the Constitution, any natural born U.S. citizen over the age of 35 is eligible to be President or Vice-President.
Constitutional law expert Erwin Chemerinsky told CBS News the claim about Ms. Harris “is a truly silly argument.”
Mr. Eastman’s op-ed was published a day after Democratic challenger Joe Biden announced Ms. Harris as his running mate, the first woman of colour tapped by a major party for the post.