Last Updated on October 3, 2021 by Constitutional Militia
The Post & Email Speaks with Constitutional Attorney and Scholar Dr. Edwin Vieira on the Term “natural born Citizen”
On Friday, The Post & Email was put in touch by a mutual colleague with Dr. Edwin Vieira, a constitutional scholar, writer and attorney who wrote an extensive column concerning the questions over Barack Hussein Obama’s constitutional eligibility to be president prior to the 2008 election.
That column, titled “OBAMA MUST STAND UP NOW OR STEP DOWN,” stated on October 29, 2008 that “America is facing potentially the gravest constitutional crisis in her history. Barack Obama must either stand up in a public forum and prove, with conclusive documentary evidence, that he is ‘a natural born Citizen’ of the United States who has not renounced his American citizenship—or he must step down as the Democratic Party’s candidate for President of the United States—preferably before the election is held, and in any event before the meets. Because, pursuant to the Constitution, only “a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States at the time of the Adoption of th[e] Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President” (Article II, Section 1, Clause 4). And Obama clearly was not “a Citizen of the United States at the time of the Adoption of th[e] Constitution.”
Dr. Vieira has published numerous columns at NewsWithViews on various constitutional issues since 2005, although scholarly papers on our monetary system and other issues date back much farther. He recently commented on Obama’s expressed desire to disarm individuals on the federal “no-fly list” following the terrorist attack in San Bernardino, CA. Obama’s intention was almost immediately echoed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy of Connecticut, who pledged to enforce such a provision by means of an executive order.
Malloy will be a guest of Michelle Obama at Tuesday’s State of the Union address and was present at a White House “ceremony” on January 5 for Obama’s signing of “executive action” aimed at enhancing background checks on potential firearms purchasers at gun shows and online.
Over the last week, the “natural born Citizen” clause contained in Article II, Section 1, clause 5 of the U.S. Constitution has been a topic of discussion by mainstream media outlets in regard to presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Ted Cruz. Other current candidates whose eligibility has been questioned are Sen. Marco Rubio and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, whose campaign is currently in suspension.
In the past, the eligibility of Charles Evans Hughes, George Romney, and John McCain was questioned, the latter two based on their respective birthplaces outside of the country, whereas Hughes was born in the U.S. to British citizens. The “natural born” status of Barry Goldwater, born in Arizona before it was a state, and former Connecticut Gov. Lowell P. Weicker, who was born in France to U.S.-citizen parents, also arose in the 20th century.
Cruz’s eligibility under the “natural born Citizen” clause has been questioned most publicly by fellow presidential candidate Donald Trump, who has focused on Cruz’s birth in Calgary, Alberta, Canada and not his parents’ citizenship. Trump has made it clear that his understanding from his school days was that a “natural born Citizen” is one who is born in the United States.
In 2011, Trump challenged Obama to prove his eligibility by releasing his detailed, “long-form” birth certificate amid speculation that Obama was hiding something about his past, possibly a birth outside of the country. On April 27, 2011, the White House acquiesced by publishing what it said was a scan of a certified copy of Obama’s original birth certificate from the Hawaii Department of Health. However, the “document” was almost immediately termed a forgery by a number of imaging professionals.
Obama has claimed a father from Kenya and a mother from Kansas as well as having resided in Indonesia for four years, although various versions of his life story state that he went to Indonesia at age 2 or 4, returning to the United States at age 10.
In October 2012, Trump called upon Obama to release his college and passport applications in exchange for $5 million, and later $50 million, to go to a charity of Obama’s choosing, to which the White House offered no response. At the National Press Club in May 2014, Trump stated that he believed that a full and open review of Obama’s history would reveal that Obama either misrepresented himself as a foreign student in his college applications or that Obama completed the forms truthfully in so stating.
While the mainstream media remained virtually silent about questions surrounding Obama’s eligibility in 2008 and 2012, most outlets are now airing segments depicting Trump’s public questioning of Cruz’s eligibility. However, at the same time, citing unnamed legal “experts,” the media has generally concluded that although Cruz was born outside of the country to a Cuban-citizen father, he meets the definition of “natural born Citizen” because he was born to a U.S.-citizen mother.
Democrat Congressman Alan Grayson of Florida has said he will file a lawsuit if Cruz becomes the Republican nominee, claiming on Alan Colmes’s radio show in November that “the President of America should be an American.”
Cruz has stated that it is “clear and straightforward” that he is a “natural born Citizen.”
The Post & Email’s interview of Dr. Vieira centered on the definition of the term of art included in the Constitution following a letter from Founding Father John Jay to George Washington during the constitutional convention, which said, in relevant part:
Permit me to hint, whether it would not be wise & seasonable to provide a strong check to the admission of Foreigners into the administration of our national Government, and to declare expressly that the Command in chief of the american army shall not be given to, nor devolved on, any but a natural born Citizen.
On the history of the matter, Dr. Vieira told us:
This goes back to the meaning of “natural born Citizen.” The words weren’t put in there for no reason, because the word “Citizen” is used. “Citizen of the United States” actually is the term used for senators and representatives. But there is an extra qualification for the president: you not only have to be a “Citizen of the United States,” but also a “natural born Citizen.”
That had a meaning prior to any statute that was written by Congress. Various people will provide a statute that Congress has passed, and they’ll say, “Congress said this” or “Congress said that.” And I’ll say, “That’s very interesting, but a statute or a judicial opinion doesn’t determine what the Constitution means; it’s the other way around: the Constitution determines whether a statute or judicial opinion is correct or incorrect.
One would actually have to go back to the pre-constitutional period and ask, “What did the term ‘natural born Citizen’ mean?” That was a point in time in which citizenship, as a matter of what they call “the law of nations,” or “natural law,” followed the father. If the father was a citizen of “X,” then the child was a citizen of “X.” In fact, the British went even further than that because they said that once you became a citizen of Britain, you could never renounce it.
That was the situation then, and there are a number of commentators who have focused on that and also looked at the confusion that you find in many of the Supreme Court decisions where they’re going in one way or another and using terminology in a very loose fashion.
In the cases of Rubio and Cruz, it’s clear who their fathers were. It’s clear that their fathers were not American citizens. Cruz has the problem that he had dual citizenship with Canada that he hadn’t renounced when he ran for the Senate, as I understand, to qualify him as a senator.
The Post & Email remarked, “In 2013, after The Dallas Morning News reported that Cruz was born with dual citizenship, Cruz’s spokeswoman, Catherine Frazier, said that to Cruz’s knowledge, he had never possessed Canadian citizenship.”
Cruz renounced his Canadian citizenship in May 2014.
Dr. Vieira continued:
There’s a lot of backing and filling going on here. What this tends to show me is that these people are not at all sure of what the constitutional definition of “natural born Citizen” really is, and they’re trying to stand on each side of the yellow line so that no matter how things turn out or what claims are made by opponents, they will have somehow covered themselves in a sound byte somewhere. There’s our difficulty, because this is something which is not really debatable. If you go back historically, you’re going to be able to find what the right answer is.
There are a couple of attorneys who have been working on this for a long time who have websites. Mario Apuzzo is a good one, because he actually goes back and looks at this from the point of view of “the law of nations.”
The difficulty comes back to the political reality that this was not investigated with Obama. His father was a citizen of the British Empire, which would have made Obama under the law of nations a British citizen.
The other problem with Obama is that after his mother’s divorce, she married an Indonesian man, Lolo Soetoro, and took the little boy to Indonesia, where he presumably became an Indonesian citizen. As a child, he could not have had his American citizenship, if he had it, taken away from him by that process, but when he came back to the U.S., he would have had to at some point in time reasserted his American citizenship. And that’s the whole question about his college records at Occidental: did he ask for, qualify for, or receive some type of foreign student dispensation or financial assistance? Are there records there that show he was claiming to be a foreign student at that time? Then, of course, one would ask, are there State Department records showing that he wanted to reassert his U.S. citizenship?
That’s why this is all closed; there’s no other reason for it to be closed. For me, as an attorney, it’s always very suspicious when the other side refuses to disclose documents, unless the documents are irrelevant. But these documents are entirely relevant.
Here’s the problem: There were two instances when the electoral votes in Obama’s two elections were counted in Congress. There’s a special statute that says that if any representative or senator wants to raise a challenge—you actually have to have one from each; one representative and one senator—then everything has to stop and that challenge has to be sorted out. So someone at that time, even one of them, had to put the question of Obama’s eligibility on the record, which would have gone to the validity of the electoral votes for him. Now maybe the rest of the members of Congress would have looked the other way; they probably would have, but at least someone would have said it.
Nobody said it in either of those elections. Nobody raised his hand and said, “There’s a serious rumor going around and I want to clear it up.” So now they’re all complicit in this. If Obama was unqualified, this is probably the biggest crime in American history. And both parties, many members of whom are still sitting in the House and Senate, are part of this. Now they’re not going to turn around and seriously investigate Cruz or Rubio. And certainly, the Democrats are not—they’re going to play the card that Obama was born in Hawaii. But that isn’t the issue. He could theoretically be an American citizen but still not be a “natural born Citizen.” That’s the problem.
This whole thing is essentially theater at this stage because there is no one in the political process or the courts, which shied away from every case that’s been brought raising this issue about Obama, who is going to touch this. You’re certainly not going to have anyone in the Justice Department or the judiciary looking at it. The Supreme Court punted on every case which arose about it.
The only person who could conceivably look into this is Trump if he is elected. Is Cruz going to look into Obama’s eligibility when that would expose his ineligibility? Rubio’s not going to do it. Hillary is certainly not going to do it. The only person who could conceivably have the authority would be Trump as president. He would control the Justice Department, which could issue subpoenas for all the records, and we could find out what the story is one way or the other.
The beauty of that, of course, would be that if it were determined that Obama was ineligible, then everything he’s done is void. That’s why this is so dangerous. It’s like a cancer scenario. The longer you let it go without treatment, the more difficult the treatment becomes, or it becomes impossible. The more things Obama is allowed to do and to sign—whether it’s executive orders or statutes or whatever—if you’re trying to unzip those in two months, it’s not so hard; if you’re trying to unzip those in eight years, it’s a lot more difficult.