Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Trump Questions Harris' Eligibility To Be The Vice Presidential Candidate

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Tonight, President Trump declined to say whether he believes Sen. Kamala Harris is eligible to be vice president - this following an op-ed in Newsweek that incorrectly raised doubts about Harris' eligibility.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I heard it today that she doesn't meet the requirements. And by the way, the lawyer that wrote that piece is a very highly qualified, very talented lawyer. I have no idea if that's right.

SHAPIRO: We should be very clear here that the president's speculation has no basis in fact. Joining us to talk about the president's remarks is NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson.

Hi, Mara.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Hi, Ari.

SHAPIRO: This has echoes of the president raising the specter of birtherism - that Barack Obama was not eligible to be president. And it's hard to miss the fact that both of these people are nonwhite. What else did the president say about Kamala Harris today?

LIASSON: Right. This is clearly birtherism 2.0. You heard him say that he doesn't know if it's true or not, but he certainly described the charge as credible. He praised the lawyer who wrote it. The lawyer for the Republican National Committee retweeted this charge, and he said to the person who asked the question - it was a reporter from VOA. He said, I don't know if this is right, but are you saying she was not born in the U.S.? And the reporter said, no, she was born in the United States. But the charge is that because her parents weren't citizens, somehow, she wasn't either - which, of course, is completely false. We have birthright citizenship in the United States.

So he's casting doubts on whether Kamala Harris is a legitimate candidate for the office of vice president, just as he suggested falsely back before 2016 that Barack Obama was not a legitimate president because he was not born in the United States.

SHAPIRO: The president has attacked Sen. Harris personally. He's called her mean. He's called her other names. Is this the first time he's talked about her eligibility?

LIASSON: It's the first time certainly in the briefing room - asked a direct question like this that I can remember. But this is something that we've been watching for. How would the Trump campaign, how would Trump himself deal with Kamala Harris, the first Black, first Asian woman on a presidential ticket? Would they stick to ideology - just calling her a radical liberal, too far left - or would they try to demonize her as someone who was literally constitutionally illegitimate to run for that office? Would it become racial? And it sounds like it is.

SHAPIRO: This seems to tie into a larger Trump/Pence campaign strategy of appealing to white fears about people of color. Put it in the context of the larger campaign for us.

LIASSON: Right. Well, the big question is, every time the president makes a kind of racialized attack, does it do him more good than harm? In other words, for every white voter that it might rile up, every white, working-class Trump - potential Trump voter, does it also turn off one, two, three, four suburban women who the president needs but don't like this kind of attack? And that's the big question. Net, net, net - does this help him politically or not? It certainly is going to...

SHAPIRO: Even motivate Democrats.

LIASSON: ...Energize Democrats.

SHAPIRO: Now, there was something else that came up at this briefing that's noteworthy. The president said he will not veto funding for the post office. Bring us up to speed there.

LIASSON: Right. The president has said this morning that the Democrats want money for the post office so that they can run a voter - vote-by-mail program because, of course, because of COVID-19, many people want to vote by mail instead of going in person to vote at a polling place. He doesn't like voting by mail. He's against it. He says, without any evidence, that it leads to massive fraud, and he doesn't want to give the post office more money.

So he said today - he was asked about that. Would you veto a bill that had money for the post office? - part of the stalled negotiations for another relief bill. He said, no, I won't veto it - which, of course, is not really germane because he's never - if he doesn't want a bill, one will never come to his desk.

SHAPIRO: You're saying because Republicans who control the Senate are not going to...

LIASSON: Right. Right. Right. Or - yes, that's exactly right. So he's never going to have to be faced with the question of veto or not veto. But he said again - and he was very adamant today - he is against voting by mail. He doesn't want the post office to have any extra money to do vote by mail.

SHAPIRO: NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson.

Thank you for the update, Mara.

LIASSON: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

KUER is listener-supported public radio. Support this work by making a donation today.