Republican presidential frontrunners Donald Trump and Ted Cruz went back and forth attacking each other during the GOP debate Thursday night over Cruz’s eligibility to be president, with Trump warning Cruz that the Democratic Party will bring a lawsuit against him if he becomes the GOP nominee.
The spat was triggered by moderator Neil Cavuto asking Cruz about Trump’s recent suggestions that the Texas Senator may not be eligible to run for president because he was born in Canada. Some have said Cruz’s birthplace does not make him a natural-born U.S. citizen, thus making him ineligible to be commander-in-chief.
Cruz has contended that since he was born to an American mother, it is settled law that he is an American citizen like John McCain and Barry Goldwater, both of whom were born to American parents outside of the country.
After Cruz’s initial response in which he said Trump may be getting worried over his narrowing lead in polls, Trump attacked Cruz, asserting that Cruz’s poll numbers are going down as his are rising.
Trump also said that constitutional attorneys have questioned Cruz’s eligibility, citing Cruz’s former Harvard Law School professor Larry Tribe as one example.
Cruz went after Trump for backing the legal opinion of Tribe, who Cruz called “a left-wing judicial activist … who was Al Gore’s lawyer in Bush versus Gore. He’s a major Hillary Clinton supporter, and there’s a reason Hillary supporters are echoing Donald’s attacks on me.”
The real estate mogul also told Cruz that the Democratic Party will bring a lawsuit against him if he is the GOP nominee.
“If for some reason he beats the rest of the field … I already know the Democrats are going to be bringing a lawsuit,” Trump said. “You [Cruz] have a big lawsuit over your head while you’re running, and if you become the nominee, who the hell knows if you could even serve in office.”
Trump added that the reason he is bringing up the birther issue now is because Cruz is currently doing better in the polls and has a “four or five percent chance” to win the nomination.
In response, Cruz said he would not take legal advice from Trump and that the litigation would not stand up in any court of law.
Both men also jokingly suggested that when they win the nomination, they would pick the other to be their vice president.
Fellow presidential candidate Marco Rubio then stopped the back and forth, saying, “I hate to interrupt this episode of court TV,” drawing cheers from the audience, before calling on the candidates to focus on the policy issues.