Trump accused of ‘white supremacy’ by AOC for pushing baseless Kamala Harris birther conspiracy

President failed to shut down false claim that Harris may not be eligible for VP office

Matt Mathers
Friday 14 August 2020 09:56 BST
Trump promotes racist conspiracy that Kamala Harris is not eligible to run for VP

Donald Trump has been roundly criticised by a raft of lawyers and Democrats for failing to shut down false claims that senator Kamala Harris may be ineligible to serve as vice president.

Erwin Chemerinsky, the dean of Berkeley Law School, pointed out that senator Harris, 55, was born in the US, and therefore her right to serve as VP is enshrined in the constitution.

“Under section 1 of the 14th Amendment, anyone born in the United States is a United States citizen,” said Mr Chemerinsky, a constitutional legal expert.

The constitution sets out that anyone who is a natural-born US citizen, is at least 35 years old, and has been resident in the country for at least 14 years, can legitimately hold office the office of VP.

“The Supreme Court has held this since the 1890s. Kamala Harris was born in the United States,” Mr Chemerinsky added, speaking to CBS.

Harris was born on 20 October 1964, in Oakland, California, according to a copy of her birth certificate, obtained by The Associated Press. This makes her a natural-born US citizen.

The Trump campaign’s legal adviser, Jenna Ellis, recently made false claims that Harris’s eligibility for VP is “an open question, and one I think [she] should answer so the American people know for sure she is eligible”.

Ms Ellis had been responding to an opinion piece written last week in Newsweek by the right-wing law professor, John C Eastman, who suggested that senator Harris was not a natural-born US citizen because her parents were born abroad.

But Chemerinsky said this was “a truly silly argument”, adding: “Some conservatives, such as John Eastman, think that is wrong and being born in the country is not enough. [They’re] clearly wrong under the language of the 14th Amendment and under Supreme Court precedent.”

There is “no serious dispute” in the legal community around the idea that someone born in the US can serve as president, said Juliet Sorensen, a law professor at Northwestern University.

Trump failed to rubbish the false claim at a White House press briefing on Thursday. The president said he had “heard” senator Harris does not meet the requirements, adding: “I have no idea if that’s right.”

When pressed on the matter, Trump went further than Mr Eastman, falsely suggesting that senator Harris may not have been born in the US. “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,” he told reporters.

Democrats were quick to criticise the president for failing to dismiss the “racist” and baseless claims.

“White supremacy is a belief system based on the idea that ppl of color, esp Black ppl, are fundamentally illegitimate as equal citizens or human beings [sic]” tweeted New York Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

“Calling into question the citizenship of elected officials of color, esp when the answer is obvious, is one way it manifests [sic]”.

She added: “Whether it’s ‘where’s the birth certificate?’ to ‘send her back!’ to ‘where were her parents from?’ – these contrived claims (which are almost never levied at white US officials born abroad) catch on bc the supremacist idea that poc are inherently less legitimate has deep roots [sic]”.

“Donald Trump was the national leader of the grotesque, racist birther movement with respect to President Obama and has sought to fuel racism and tear our nation apart on every single day of his presidency,” said Andrew Bates, a spokesperson for the Biden campaign.

“So it’s unsurprising, but no less abhorrent, that as Trump makes a fool of himself straining to distract the American people from the horrific toll of his failed coronavirus response that his campaign and their allies would resort to wretched, demonstrably false lies in their pathetic desperation.”

Meghan McCain, who has been an ardent Trump critic, called the conspiracy theory part of a “gross, dark trend in American politics about birth qualification which is all clear and obvious.” She noted that her father, the late senator John McCain, faced similar attacks because he was born on a military base.

Additional reporting by Associated Press

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