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Photo: Olivier Douilery/AFP via Getty Images

Trump campaign senior legal adviser Jenna Ellis on Thursday shared a Newsweek op-ed that baselessly claims Sen. Kamala Harris may be ineligible for the vice presidency because both of her parents were not naturalized citizens at her birth.

Why it matters: Harris was born in Oakland, Calif. She is an American citizen and is eligible for the office. Critics, including many Republicans, denounced the piece as a new attempt at "birtherism" — the conspiracy theory that President Obama was not actually born in the U.S. — targeting the first woman of color on a presidential ticket.

  • The op-ed, penned by conservative law professor John Eastman and published Wednesday, argues that Harris might not be considered a natural-born citizen because a clause in the 14th Amendment — "and subject to the jurisdiction thereof [the U.S.]" — could preclude her given her parents' citizenship.
  • Eastman's view on birthright citizenship and presidential eligibility is not accepted by constitutional law scholars.

The state of play: Ellis doubled down on her retweet, telling ABC News' Will Steakin that she believes Harris' citizenship is "an open question, and one I think Harris should answer so the American people know for sure she is eligible."

Worth noting: In January 2016, Eastman argued in the National Review that doubts about the presidential eligibility of Sen. Ted Cruz, born in Canada to an American mother, were "downright silly."

  • "No serious constitutional scholar adheres to the view that the meaning of the 'natural-born citizen' requirement contained in ... the Constitution applies only to people born on American soil," he wrote.
  • President Trump, then campaigning against Cruz, was one of the first to push the idea of his ineligibility. He was also a key proponent of the birtherism theory.

What they're saying: Conservative blogger Erick Erickson tweeted in response to the op-ed that people can "get ready for a whole new round of birtherism, and it'll be as stupid as the first time."

  • Republican pollster Frank Luntz simply reiterated that Harris was born in Oakland.
  • "[I]t’s unsurprising, but no less abhorrent, that as Trump makes a fool of himself straining to distract the American people from the horrific toll of his failed coronavirus response that his campaign and their allies would resort to wretched, demonstrably false lies in their pathetic desperation," said Biden campaign rapid response director Andrew Bates.

The big picture: The criticism forced Newsweek to issue an editor's note about the column on Thursday, saying it "has nothing to do with racist birtherism."

  • Newsweek's global editor-in-chief Nancy Cooper and opinion editor Josh Hammer argued that Eastman's piece was premised on "issues of legal interpretation about which scholars and commentators can, and will, robustly disagree."

The bottom line: Ellis' promotion of the op-ed suggests a willingness by the president and his supporters to use baseless or unsavory arguments to try to undermine the legitimacy of the Biden ticket — all as Trump lags Biden in the polls with 82 days until Election Day.

Go deeper

Updated Nov 7, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Joe Biden elected president, AP projects

Biden in Los Angeles in March. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

The Associated Press projects Joe Biden has been elected the 46th president of the United States, ousting President Trump after a single term marked by impeachment, constant battles, a disastrous response to the deadly coronavirus pandemic and an unexpectedly close election.

Kamala Harris will join him as the first woman and first female person of color to be elected vice president — a historic breakthrough largely overshadowed by the turmoil surrounding the election. The news drew cheering crowds to the White House, while Biden made plans to address the nation at 8 pm Eastern.

Off the Rails

Episode 2: Barbarians at the Oval

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 2: Trump stops buying what his professional staff are telling him, and increasingly turns to radical voices telling him what he wants to hear.

President Trump plunked down in an armchair in the White House residence, still dressed from his golf game — navy fleece, black pants, white MAGA cap. It was Saturday, Nov. 7. The networks had just called the election for Joe Biden.

Fringe right plots new attacks out of sight

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Domestic extremists are using obscure and private corners of the internet to plot new attacks ahead of Inauguration Day. Their plans are also hidden in plain sight, buried in podcasts and online video platforms.

Why it matters: Because law enforcement was caught flat-footed during last week's Capitol siege, researchers and intelligence agencies are paying more attention to online threats that could turn into real-world violence.