President Trump used his Thursday press briefing to promote a claim that Senator Kamala Harris (D., Calif.) is not a U.S. citizen, despite the fact that she was born in California.
Earlier that day, Trump-campaign adviser Jenna Ellis retweeted an op-ed in Newsweek that questioned whether Harris could be considered a U.S. citizen.
“It’s an open question, and one I think Harris should answer so the American people know for sure she is eligible,” Ellis said in comments to ABC News. Trump later picked up on those remarks.
“I heard it today that [Harris] doesn’t meet the requirements” for citizenship, Trump told reporters at the White House. “And, by the way, the lawyer that wrote that [Newsweek] piece is a very highly qualified, very talented lawyer. I have no idea if that’s right. I would have assumed the Democrats would have checked that out.”
The legal debate Trump is referring to considers whether the 14th Amendment of the Constitution confers citizenship on children of non-U.S. citizens residing in the U.S. at the time of their child’s birth. Harris’s parents were not yet naturalized citizens when she was born. For decades, however, the 14th Amendment has been interpreted as conferring citizenship on most people born in the U.S. regardless of the visa status of their parents.
Trump for years promoted a conspiracy theory that former President Obama was born in Kenya and was thus ineligible to hold the office of president, despite the fact that Obama was born in Hawaii. By September 2016, after winning the Republican nomination, Trump was forced to backtrack, saying at the time “President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period.”