IT IS NOT hard to prove that Donald Trump was lying when he said twice in the past week that he hasn’t given much thought to the crackpot legal theory that Sen. Kamala Harris was not entitled to citizenship when she was born in Oakland, California in 1964 to immigrant parents — and so, is not eligible now to be Vice President.
That’s because the president stated clearly in a televised interview with Jonathan Swan of Axios just before the 2018 midterms that he planned to issue an executive order based on that fringe reading of the Constitution, which would instruct federal agencies that children born in the United States to non-citizens were not entitled to U.S. citizenship at birth.
“It was always told to me that you needed a constitutional amendment. Guess what? You don’t,” Trump told Swan in an interview excerpt published online on Oct. 30, 2018. “You can definitely do it with an act of Congress,” Trump added, incorrectly, “but now they’re saying I can do it just with an executive order.”
While Trump, characteristically, did not identify the “they” saying that he could undo the definition of birthright citizenship in the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, the president has repeatedly praised one of the only lawyers in America who claims that the plain language of that amendment has been misunderstood for over 150 years.
As Swan reported at the time, John Eastman, a fellow at the far-right Claremont Institute think tank, argued, as he has for decades, that the amendment granting citizenship to “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof,” should be read to exclude the children of people who are not U.S. citizens when their child is born.
It was Eastman who claimed last week — in a discredited Newsweek op-ed that the publication has now, sort of, apologized for publishing — that Harris had no claim to citizenship at birth, since her parents were still, at the time, subject not just to the jurisdiction of the United States but also to their native lands of India and Jamaica.
Swan also noted that Trump’s claim that an executive order would suffice to change the constitutional definition of citizenship — an idea rejected by an overwhelming consensus of conservative and liberal law scholars — came just three months after the president was urged to issue such an order, and dare the courts to block it, in a Washington Post op-ed by Michael Anton, a former national security official in the Trump administration who is also a Claremont Institute fellow.