Elections

Trump won’t drop birther question, and Ted Cruz is fighting back

Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas holds a town hall at Praise Community Church in Mason City, Iowa, Friday, Jan. 8, 2016.
Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas holds a town hall at Praise Community Church in Mason City, Iowa, Friday, Jan. 8, 2016. AP

Canadian-born Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, continued to come under fire Sunday over whether he is a “natural born citizen” eligible to be U.S. president.

Cruz, a lawyer, has said that his citizenship is “settled law” and on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday said it is “clear and straightforward” that he became a U.S. citizen at birth in Calgary because his mother was a U.S. citizen. His presidential primary campaign even released his mother’s U.S. birth certificate over the weekend - after denying she had become a Canadian citizen, although her name appears on a 1974 Canadian federal election voter roll.

But Republican national frontrunner Donald Trump, who stoked the issue last week by saying that Democrats would sue if Cruz was the nominee and ensnare the election, continued to press his case on several Sunday news programs that the foreign birth was “a problem” that the Supreme Court ought to decide.

Asked about his eligibility as a citizen on CNN Sunday, Cruz said, “The substance of the issue is clear and straightforward. As a legal matter, the Constitution and federal law are clear that the child of a U.S. citizen born abroad is a natural-born citizen.”

Cruz was born in Calgary, Alberta, in 1970 when his Cuban father, Rafael Cruz, and American-born mother, Eleanor Cruz, were living and working in the oil industry. However, his father became a Canadian citizen, as Rafael Cruz told NPR in 2013. And both his and Cruz’s mother’s names appear on Canadian voter rolls in May, 1974, in documents obtained by McClatchy. Only Canadian citizens are eligible to vote in that country.

The Urban Polling Division document of the “preliminary list of electors” for Calgary as compiled by officials, called enumerators, who went door to door to compile voter lists, has Raphael [sic] Cruz, self-employed, and Mrs. Eleanor Cruz at a southwestern Calgary address.

Sen. Ted Cruz was born in Calgary, Alberta, in 1970 when his Cuban father, Rafael Cruz, and American-born mother, Eleanor Cruz, were living and working in the oil industry.

Cruz said on CNN that his mother didn’t vote in a Canadian election. “My mother didn’t because she was a U.S. citizen. And my mother -- look, the Internet has all sorts of fevered swamp theories, but the facts are simple. My mom was born in Wilmington, Delaware. She was an American citizen by birth. She’s been an American citizens all 81 years of her life. She’s never been a citizen of any other place.”

While Cruz seemed to rule out the possibility that his mother was a dual citizen, he himself was a dual citizen of the U.S. and Canada and renounced his Canadian citizenship in 2014 in anticipation of a presidential run.

As for the “natural born” clause of the Constitution being clear-cut, several constitutional law scholars, including Harvard University’s Laurence Tribe who taught both Cruz and President Barack Obama, said it was not.

“I don’t agree that it’s ‘settled law,’” Tribe said on ABC News. “The Supreme Court has never addressed the issue one way or the other, as I believe Ted ought to know.”

Trump on Sunday invoked Tribe as he revisited the prospect of Cruz as a contested nominee.

I don’t want to beat him this way. I’m just saying, in my opinion. . . the Democrats are going to bring a lawsuit.

Donald Trump

“So what happens is I was watching Laurence Tribe of Harvard yesterday, who’s a constitutional expert; one of the true experts. And according to him, it’s a real question mark,” Trump said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“Let me tell you: From Ted’s standpoint and from the party’s standpoint, he has to solve this problem. Because the Democrats will sue him if he’s the nominee,” said Trump. “If Ted is the nominee, he will be sued by the Democrats. And according to one of the great lawyers of the country at Harvard, with strong opinions on this, the whole thing has not been -- as he said, this matter has not been determined.”

Trump’s solution: “I would say that I would want the Supreme Court to rule because they haven’t ruled.”

On Fox News Sunday, asked by Chris Wallace whether he was “trolling” Cruz by spreading negative information about him, Trump said he was not.

“What he should do is ask for a declaratory judgment,” said Trump. “I think I’m going to win. I don’t want to beat him this way. I’m just saying, in my opinion . . . the Democrats are going to bring a lawsuit. If it’s Ted, the Democrats are going to bring a lawsuit. He’s got to have this thing worked out.”

The law is simple and straightforward.

Sen. Ted Cruz

Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., who is running for Senate, has said that he will sue over Cruz’s constitutional eligibility if the Texan is the Republican nominee.

Asked by Wallace if he thought Cruz was a natural-born citizen, Trump said, “I don’t know. I really don’t know. It depends. Does ‘natural born’ mean born-to-the-land, then he’s not. But nobody knows what it means. It hasn’t been adjudicated.”

Cruz, for his part, on CNN tried to deflect attention from the circumstances of his birth. “And so the law is simple and straightforward. And it’s actually come up a bunch of times in our nation’s history. So, John McCain was born in Panama, but he was a U.S. citizen because his parents were citizens.”

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the 2008 GOP presidential nominee, was born to a U.S. military family in the Panama Canal Zone when it was a U.S. territory. And McCain, who has clashed with Cruz in the Senate, offered him no support last week saying in a radio interview that “I don’t know” if the Texas senator was a natural born citizen.

Cruz suggested Sunday that his rising poll numbers in Iowa -- where he now leads the Republican contenders -- were the reason for the interest in his citizenship.

“Three weeks ago, almost every Republican candidate was attacking Donald Trump,” said Cruz. “Today, almost every Republican candidate is attacking me. That kind of suggests maybe something has changed in the race.”

Fort Worth Star-Telegram research director Cathy Belcher contributed to this report from Fort Worth, Texas.

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