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Democrats hammer Trump for entertaining false birther theory about Harris

President TrumpDonald TrumpDemocrats, activists blast reported Trump DOJ effort to get journalists' phone records Arizona secretary of state gets security detail over death threats surrounding election audit Trump admin got phone records of WaPo reporters covering Russia probe: report MORE on Thursday drew swift backlash after he declined to disavow a baseless and racist conspiracy theory that Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisHarris says Mexico, US can work together to improve quality of life in Northern Triangle Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms says 'it is time to pass the baton on to someone else' Harris's uncle discusses COVID-19 surge in India: 'The conditions are pretty bad' MORE (D-Calif.) would not be eligible to serve as vice president.

Trump at a news conference was asked about an op-ed in Newsweek that was shared by an adviser to his campaign that raised the possibility Harris, who was born in Oakland, Calif., to immigrant parents, does not meet the requirements to hold the office.

The president, who spent much of then-President Obama's time in office pushing the racist and unfounded "birther theory" that he was not born in the United States, said he had "no idea" if Harris was ineligible to run for vice president.

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"I just heard that. I heard it today, that she doesn’t meet the requirements," he said. "And by the way, the lawyer that wrote that piece is a very highly qualified, talented lawyer."

"I have no idea if that’s right. I would have assumed the Democrats would have checked that out before she gets chosen to run for vice president," he continued. "I don’t know about it. I just heard about it. I’ll take a look."

Trump was referencing a Newsweek column by John Eastman, a conservative attorney who called into question the citizenship status of Harris's parents at the time of her birth. The column was retweeted by Jenna Ellis, a Trump campaign adviser.

Harris is eligible to hold the office of vice president. She is the first woman of color to be named to a major party's presidential ticket.

Democrats and some Trump critics were quick to hammer the president for entertaining the conspiracy theory about the senator.

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"Donald Trump was the national leader of the grotesque, racist birther movement with respect to President Obama and has sought to fuel racism and tear our nation apart on every single day of his presidency," said Andrew Bates, a spokesman for the Biden campaign. "So it’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."

Democratic lawmakers quickly piled on, accusing Trump of trafficking in racism.

"White supremacy is a belief system based on the idea that ppl of color, esp Black ppl, are fundamentally illegitimate as equal citizens or human beings," Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezBattle lines drawn over Biden's support for vaccine waivers Overnight Energy: Update on Biden administration conservation goals | GOP sees opportunity to knock Biden amid rising gas prices | Push for nationwide electric vehicle charging stations The Memo: The GOP's war is already over — Trump won MORE (D-N.Y.) tweeted. "Calling into question the citizenship of elected officials of color, esp when the answer is obvious, is one way it manifests."

"Oh look, @realDonaldTrump doubling down on racism again, this time a repeat of his racist birther stuff," Rep. Ted LieuTed W. LieuDemocrats, activists blast reported Trump DOJ effort to get journalists' phone records Lawmakers praise Biden for expected recognition of Armenian Genocide Overnight Defense: Top Pentagon nominee advances after Harris casts tie-breaker | Air Force general charged with sexual assault first to face court-martial | House passes bill to limit Saudi arms sales MORE (D-Calif.) tweeted. "That’s the only thing @POTUS has left: racial grievance politics. He failed at the economy. He failed at the pandemic. He failed at health care.He’s going to lose in Nov."

"Trump's birtherism was racist in 2011. Trump's birtherism is racist in 2020. It really is that simple," Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) tweeted.

Meghan McCainMeghan Marguerite McCainCheney fight stokes cries of GOP double standard for women Conservative Club for Growth PAC comes out against Stefanik to replace Cheney Meghan McCain promises 'consequences' if Republicans oust Cheney MORE, who has been an ardent Trump critic, called the conspiracy theory part of a "gross, dark trend in American politics about birth qualification which is all clear and obvious." She noted that her father, the late Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainEx-McSally aide pleads guilty to stealing over 0K in campaign funds DOJ: Arizona recount could violate civil rights laws Cheney fight stokes cries of GOP double standard for women MORE (R-Ariz.), faced similar attacks because he was born on a military base.