Trump made the request for Cruz to seek a declaratory judgment from federal court on the issue during an interview with CNN on Wednesday.
Trump cast such a move as “for the good of Ted.”
“You go in seeking the decision of the court without a court case. You go right in. You go before a judge, you do it quickly. Declaratory judgment. It’s very good,” Trump told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “So when there’s a doubt, because there’s a doubt. You want the court to rule.”
Cruz was born in Canada to an American mother and held dual citizenship. His family moved to the U.S. when he was a young child. In June 2014 he renounced his Canadian citizenship.
The decision to confront Mr. Cruz more directly comes as Mr. Trump, who has dominated most national and state polls for months, faces the prospect of losing to the Texas senator in next month’s Iowa caucuses. Popular among evangelical Christians and conservatives, Mr. Cruz has become a favourite to win the first contest of the nominating process.
The clash represents a shift in the Republican race because Mr. Trump and Mr. Cruz have largely steered clear of each other thus far, professing mutual admiration and agreement on many issues.
But earlier today on MSNBC, Trump suggested there was still a “cloud” over Cruz.
“It’s a problem for him, and it’s a problem obviously for the Republicans,” Trump said. “Let’s assume he got a nomination and the Democrats bring suit, the suit takes two to three years to solve, so how do you run?”
Trump’s stated doubts seem to differ from his opinion in September when he was asked about Cruz’s eligibility for the White House.
“I hear it was checked out by every attorney and every which way and I understand Ted is in fine shape,” Trump told ABC News at the time.
Today, another GOP candidate, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, also voiced concerns.
“I think without question he is qualified and would make the cut to be prime minister of Canada,” Paul quipped on the radio show Kilmeade and Friends. He continued by claiming he was not “an expert on the natural-born clause in the Constitution” and speculated the Cruz could face litigation over the matter.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) questioned Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Texas) eligibility to be president, piling on to recent attacks over the Texas senator’s citizenship.
“I don’t know the answer to that,” McCain said of Cruz’s eligibility in a radio interview on “The Chris Merrill Show” in Arizona.
“I know it came up in my race because I was born in Panama, but I was born in the Canal Zone which is a territory. Barry Goldwater was born in Arizona when it was a territory when he ran in 1964.”
McCain, the 2008 GOP nominee, faced similar skepticism while he was running for president, but McCain noted that there are differences between his and Cruz’s birthplaces.
The Arizona senator was born on a U.S. military base. Cruz was born in Canada, but his mother was a U.S. citizen.
“Yeah, it was a U.S. military base,” McCain said. “That’s different from being born on foreign soil, so I think there is a question. I am not a Constitutional scholar on that, but I think it’s worth looking into. I don’t think it’s illegitimate to look into it.”
The Constitution says that in order to run for president, one must be a “natural born citizen,” long regarded as anyone born to a U.S. citizen, regardless of where that person is born.
Even White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest weighed in. Alluding to the debate over President Obama’s nationality, Earnest joked that it would be “quite ironic if after 7 or 8 years of drama around the President’s birth certificate, if Republican primary voters were to choose Senator Cruz as their nominee, somebody who actually wasn’t born in the United States and only 18 months ago renounced his Canadian citizenship.”