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Right on cue, Trump baselessly questions Kamala Harris' eligibility

Team Trump has wasted no time peddling racist nonsense about Kamala Harris' eligibility for national office. Let no one be surprised.
Image: Democratic vice presidential candidate Senator Kamala Harris speaks at a campaign event in Wilmington, Delaware
Democratic vice presidential candidate Senator Kamala Harris speaks at a campaign event in Wilmington, Delaware, Aug. 12, 2020.Carlos Barria / Reuters

On Sen. Kamala Harris' (D-Calif.) first day as her party's presumptive vice-presidential nominee, she saw Jenna Ellis, Donald Trump's campaign lawyer, promoting online nonsense questioning her eligibility for the office. Ellis soon after told ABC News, "It's an open question, and one I think Harris should answer so the American people know for sure she is eligible."

As a factual matter, this was ridiculous. The Trump campaign didn't seem to care.

On Harris' second day as a member of her party's national ticket, she saw the president of United States peddling the same garbage.

President Donald Trump on Thursday peddled a factually baseless and racist conspiracy theory that Sen. Kamala Harris isn't eligible to be vice president.

"I heard it today that she doesn't meet the requirements," Trump told reporters during a White House briefing. He went on to say that he considers the matter "very serious," adding, "They're saying that she doesn't qualify because she wasn't born in this country?"

Article II, Sec. 1 of the U.S. Constitution sets the eligibility requirements for the office: to serve, an American must be at least 35 years old, have been a U.S. resident for at least 14 years, and be a natural-born citizen. Kamala Harris is 55, she's been a U.S. resident for several decades, and she was born in California -- which necessarily makes her a natural-born citizen.

There are no legitimate questions about her eligibility for national office.

And yet, here we are, arriving at a familiar point. Donald Trump rose to national prominence peddling a racist conspiracy theory about the nation's first Black president and his eligibility, and now he's once again adopting a similar posture toward a woman who may become the nation's first Black vice president.

At roughly this point four years ago, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) was introduced as the Democratic vice presidential pick, and soon after, the Trump campaign issued two press releases. One accused the former Virginia governor of lacking meaningful accomplishments while in office, and other tried to drive a wedge between Kaine and Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt.) supporters. Trump used his Twitter account to push the same message.

At no point did he or anyone of his allies feel the need to question Kaine's citizenship status or family history.

Indeed, Trump and his cohorts have thrown everything they could think of at the likes of Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, and Bill Clinton, but at no point did they ever question their eligibility for national office. That treatment is apparently reserved for Barack Obama and Kamala Harris.

I wonder what quality separates these two groups of like-minded Democrats.

Twelve years ago, a handful of then-Sen. John McCain's (R-Ariz.) critics raised questions about his eligibility for the presidency because he was born in Panama. With those concerns in mind, the Senate approved a bipartisan resolution in May 2008, stating members' belief that the Arizona Republican was, in fact, eligible for the office.

It enjoyed the support of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton -- McCain's electoral rivals at the time.

I'll be eager to see how many Senate Republicans step up now to knock down the latest racist nonsense Trump has started to try to legitimize.

Update: Jared Kushner told CBS News this morning, in reference to the baseless questions about Harris, "Look, at the end of the day, that's something that's out there." Perhaps, but who put it "out there"?

The presidential son-in-law added that Trump "just said that he had no idea whether that's right or wrong. I don't see that as promoting it."

In reality, according to the White House's own transcript, Trump said, "I heard it today that she doesn't meet the requirements.... They're saying that she doesn't qualify because she wasn't born in this country?"