Cruz vs. Trump Over Natural Birth: Under Your Theory, You Would Be Disqualified From Running For President

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The Donald Trump-Ted Cruz feud comes to a head when Cruz turns Trump's line of attack back on him.

CAVUTO: All right. Welcome back to the Republican presidential debate, right here in North Charleston, South Carolina. Let's get right back to the questions. And I'll start with you, Senator Cruz.

Now you are, of course, a strict constitutionalist -- no one would doubt that. And as you know, the U.S. Constitution says only natural-born citizens are eligible for the office of president of the United States. Stop me if you've heard this before. Now, you were born...

(LAUGHTER)

... you were born in Canada to an American mother. So you were and are considered an American citizen. But that fellow next to you, Donald Trump -- and others -- have said that being born in Canada means you are not natural-born, and that has raised questions about your eligibility.

Do you want to try to close this topic once and for all tonight?

CRUZ: Well, Neil, I'm glad we're focusing on the important topics of the evening.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

You know, back in September, my friend Donald said that he had had his lawyers look at this from every which way, and there was no issue there. There was nothing to this birther issue.

(LAUGHTER)

Now, since September, the Constitution hasn't changed.

(LAUGHTER)

But the poll numbers have.

(APPLAUSE)

And I recognize -- I recognize that Donald is dismayed that his poll numbers are falling in Iowa. But the facts and the law here are really quite clear. Under longstanding U.S. law, the child of a U.S. citizen born abroad is a natural-born citizen.

If a soldier has a child abroad, that child is a natural-born citizen. That's why John McCain, even though he was born in Panama, was eligible to run for president.

If an American missionary has a child abroad, that child is a natural-born citizen. That's why George Romney, Mitt's dad, was eligible to run for president, even though he was born in Mexico.

At the end of the day, the legal issue is quite straightforward, but I would note that the birther theories that Donald has been relying on -- some of the more extreme ones insist that you must not only be born on U.S. soil, but have two parents born on U.S. soil.

Under that theory, not only would I be disqualified, Marco Rubio would be disqualified, Bobby Jindal would be disqualified and, interestingly enough, Donald J. Trump would be disqualified.

(APPLAUSE)

(UNKNOWN): Not me.

CRUZ: Because -- because Donald's mother was born in Scotland. She was naturalized. Now, Donald...

TRUMP: But I was born here.

CRUZ: ... on the issue -- on the issue of citizenship, Donald...

TRUMP: (inaudible). Big difference.

CRUZ: ... on the issue of citizenship, Donald, I'm not going to use your mother's birth against you.

TRUMP: OK, good. Because it wouldn't work.

CRUZ: You're an American, as is everybody else on this stage, and I would suggest we focus on who's best prepared to be commander- in-chief, because that's the most important question facing the country.

(APPLAUSE)

CAVUTO: Mr. Trump...

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: ... that you raised it because of his rising poll numbers.

TRUMP: ... first of all, let me just tell you something -- and you know, because you just saw the numbers yourself -- NBC Wall Street Journal just came out with a poll -- headline: Trump way up, Cruz going down. I mean, so don't -- so you can't -- you can't...

(BOOING)

... they don't like the Wall Street Journal. They don't like NBC, but I like the poll.

(LAUGHTER)

And frankly, it just came out, and in Iowa now, as you know, Ted, in the last three polls, I'm beating you. So -- you know, you shouldn't misrepresent how well you're doing with the polls.

(APPLAUSE)

You don't have to say that. In fact, I was all for you until you started doing that, because that's a misrepresentation, number one.

TRUMP: Number two, this isn't me saying it. I don't care. I think I'm going to win fair and square (inaudible) to win this way. Thank you.

Lawrence Tribe and (inaudible) from Harvard -- of Harvard, said that there is a serious question as to whether or not Ted can do this. OK? There are other attorneys that feel, and very, very fine constitutional attorneys, that feel that because he was not born on the land, he cannot run for office.

Here's the problem. We're running. We're running. He does great. I win. I choose him as my vice presidential candidate, and the Democrats sue because we can't take him along for the ride. I don't like that. OK?

(LAUGHTER)

The fact is -- and if for some reason he beats the rest of the field, he beats the rest of the field (inaudible). See, they don't like that. They don't like that.

(AUDIENCE BOOING)

No, they don't like he beats the rest of the field, because they want me.

(LAUGHTER)

But -- if for some reason, Neil, he beats the rest of the field, I already know the Democrats are going to be bringing a suit. You have a big lawsuit over your head while you're running. And if you become the nominee, who the hell knows if you can even serve in office? So you should go out, get a declaratory judgment, let the courts decide. And you shouldn't have mentioned the polls because I would have been much...

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: Why are you saying this now -- right now? Why are you raising this issue now?

TRUMP: Because now he's going a little bit better. No, I didn't care (inaudible). It's true. No, it's true. Hey look, he never had a chance. Now, he's doing better. He's got probably a four or five percent chance.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

CRUZ: Neil...

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: The fact is, there is a big overhang. There's a big question mark on your head. And you can't do that to the party. You really can't. You can't do that to the party. You have to have certainty. Even if it was a one percent chance, and it's far greater than one percent because (inaudible).

I mean, you have great constitutional lawyers that say you can't run. If there was a -- and you know I'm not bringing a suit. I promise. But the Democrats are going to bring a lawsuit, and you have to have certainty. You can't have a question. I can agree with you or not, but you can't have a question over your head.

CAVUTO: Senator, do you want to respond?

CRUZ: Well, listen, I've spent my entire life defending the Constitution before the U.S. Supreme Court. And I'll tell you, I'm not going to be taking legal advice from Donald Trump.

TRUMP: You don't have to. Take it from Lawrence Tribe.

(APPLAUSE)

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Take it from your professors...

(CROSSTALK)

CRUZ: The chances of any litigation proceeding and succeeding on this are zero. And Mr. Trump is very focused...

TRUMP: He's wrong. He's wrong.

CRUZ: ... on Larry Tribe. Let me tell you who Larry Tribe is. He's a left-wing judicial activist, Harvard Law professor who was Al Gore's lawyer in Bush versus Gore. He's a major Hillary Clinton supporter. And there's a reason why Hillary's supporters are echoing Donald's attacks on me, because Hillary...

TRUMP: He is not the only one.

CRUZ: ... wants to face Donald Trump in the general election.

TRUMP: There are many lawyers.

CRUZ: And I'll tell you what, Donald, you -- you very kindly just a moment ago offered me the V.P. slot.

(LAUGHTER) I'll tell you what. If this all works out, I'm happy to consider naming you as V.P. So if you happen to be right, you could get the top job at the end of the day.

TRUMP: No -- no...

(LAUGHTER)

... I think if it doesn't...

(APPLAUSE)

I like that. I like it. I'd consider it. But I think I'll go back to building buildings if it doesn't work out.

CRUZ: Actually, I'd love to get you to build a wall.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: I have a feeling it's going to work out, actually.

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