The president’s chief of staff Mark Meadows said on Aug. 16 that the White House isn’t contesting that Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif) as eligible to to serve as vice president, pushing back against recently circulated theories over her qualifications.
Meadows made the remarks during an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday, in response to a question about whether Harris, who presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden selected as his running mate last week, meets the constitutional requirements to serve in the White House.
“Sure,” Meadows responded. “And I think the president spoke to this yesterday. This is not something that we’re going to pursue.”
Meadows was referring to an inaccurate theory addressed by President Donald Trump last week that suggested Harris, 55, is not eligible to serve as vice president, because her parents were not American citizens. The California senator is a U.S.-born citizen, born to a Jamaican father and an Indian mother who both immigrated to the United States to study.
The issue was raised last week in a Newsweek op-ed by John Eastman, a lawyer and Chapman University professor. Eastman in his article questioned whether Harris is a “natural born citizen” because her parents were not U.S. citizens at the time of her birth.
The publication has since issued an apology, saying the piece is being used by some as “a tool to perpetuate racism and xenophobia.”
“Actually, Jake, you and a number in the media, you all have spent more time on it than anybody in the White House has talking about this,” Meadows told host Jake Tapper. “I’m more concerned with Kamala Harris’s liberal ideas coming from San Francisco to the rest of America than I am whether she was—where she was born or anything else.”
The president on Saturday said that his reelection campaign would not be “pursuing” theories that question Harris’s eligibility to serve in the White House.
“I know nothing about it, but it’s not something that bothers me,” Trump told reporters Saturday from his New Jersey golf club. “I just don’t know about it, but it’s not something we will be pursuing.”
He previously acknowledged hearing of Eastman’s article, saying that he had “no idea if that’s right.”
“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?” Trump asked the reporter. “I don’t know about it. I just heard about it. I’ll take a look,” he said.
Some legacy news outlets and Democrats, including Biden’s campaign, asserted that Trump was racist for making the statement.
Harris, 55, was born in Oakland, California, making her a natural-born U.S. citizen and eligible to be president if Joe Biden were unable to serve a full term. Her father, an economist from Jamaica, and her mother, a cancer researcher from India, met at the University of California, Berkeley, as graduate students.
The Constitution requires a vice president to meet the eligibility requirements to be president. That includes being a natural-born U.S. citizen, at least 35 years old, and a resident in the United States for at least 14 years—all criteria that Harris fulfills.
However, there is no issue as to whether or not she is an American citizen.
She was born in the United States in 1964 to parents who were legally present.
Under the Constitution and Supreme Court precedent, she is unequivocally an American citizen.
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) August 14, 2020
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has also pushed back against the eligibility claims, saying last week that there is no debate about whether Harris is an American citizen.
“There are plenty of issues to find disagreement with @KamalaHarris regarding her record as Senator or as a Vice Presidential nominee,” Graham wrote in a statement on Twitter. “She is consistently rated one of the most liberal members of the U.S. Senate, fully embracing a radical Democratic agenda.”
“There is no issue as to whether or not she is an American citizen,” he wrote. “She was born in the United States in 1964 to parents who were legally present. Under the Constitution and Supreme Court precedent, she is unequivocally an American citizen.”
Jack Phillips and The Associated Press contributed to this report.