Trump campaign senior adviser Jason Miller on Sunday dismissed questions about the eligibility of Harris to run for vice president, pushing back against a false racist conspiracy theory promoted by another Trump campaign adviser and echoed by the president himself.
“In our opinion, it’s case closed,” Miller said in an interview on ABC News’s “This Week.”
When asked about statements last week by Jenna Ellis, a senior legal adviser to the Trump campaign, promoting the conspiracy theory, Miller replied, “She wasn’t speaking for the campaign. I am.”
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows also said Sunday that he believes Harris is eligible to be vice president.
“Sure,” Meadows said on CNN’s “State of the Union” when asked about Harris’s eligibility. “And I think the president spoke to this yesterday. This is not something that we’re going to pursue.”
Host Jake Tapper pressed Meadows. “So, when you say ‘sure,’ that means yes? Yes, you accept that she is eligible to be vice president?”
“Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes,” Meadows replied. “I do, yes.”
Others in Trump’s orbit, however, did not go that far.
Trump campaign adviser Steve Cortes was repeatedly asked by Fox News Channel’s Chris Wallace on Sunday whether the campaign would acknowledge that Harris is eligible to be vice president. Cortes declined to do so.
“Look, again, I don’t know why it’s incumbent upon him to opine on legal scholarship of the Constitution and the 14th Amendment, for example,” Cortes said on “Fox News Sunday.” “I don’t think that’s his place as president. What he is saying is we have not made an issue of this. We will not make an issue of this.”
Harris was born in Oakland, Calif., and is, by the laws of the Constitution, a U.S. citizen. But some birther conspiracy theorists say, wrongly, that her parents’ immigration status at the time of her birth makes her ineligible, and Biden’s campaign has denounced such claims as “abhorrent.”
Trump — who previously promoted the past false allegation that Barack Obama was born in Kenya rather than in Hawaii and thus ineligible to serve as president — said last week that questions raised about Harris’s eligibility to run for vice president were “very serious.”
“So I just heard that, I heard it today, that she doesn’t meet the requirements,” Trump said Friday. “I have no idea if that’s right. I would have assumed the Democrats would have checked it before she gets chosen to run for vice president. 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?”
On Saturday, Trump repeatedly declined to say whether he believes Harris is eligible to be vice president, telling reporters that “it’s not something that I’m going to be pursuing.”
“To me, it doesn’t bother me at all,” he said in Bedminster, N.J. “I don’t know about it. I read one quick article. The lawyer happens to be a brilliant lawyer, as you probably know. He wrote an article saying there could be a problem.”
In his interview with Cortes on Sunday, Wallace noted that Trump “didn’t strike down” the false claim that Harris is ineligible.
Trump’s campaign began promoting the conspiracy theory last week when Ellis retweeted a Newsweek op-ed written by John C. Eastman, a law professor at Chapman University in California and a senior fellow at the Claremont Institute, a conservative think tank.
In his piece, Eastman questioned whether Harris’s parents were U.S. citizens at the time of her birth or “merely temporary visitors,” adding that it was possible that Harris “was not subject to the complete jurisdiction of the United States at birth, but instead owed her allegiance to a foreign power or powers.”
Eastman in 2010 ran unsuccessfully for the GOP nomination for California attorney general; Harris defeated the eventual GOP nominee in the general election.
The op-ed prompted a swift online backlash, and Newsweek responded by posting an editor’s note arguing that the essay “has no connection whatsoever to so-called ‘birther-ism.’”
Asked last week about her decision to retweet the piece, Ellis defended Eastman’s views.
“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 an email.