The Constitution Absolutely Prohibits Nikki Haley From Being President Or Vice President

The question of presidential eligibility under the Constitution has been a hot button one, especially in recent years with the controversial campaigns of John McCain, Barack Obama, Ted Cruz, and most recently, Kamala Harris. The controversy arises from the text of the Constitution itself. Article II, Section 1, stipulates that “No person except a natural born citizen or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President.” The core issue centers on the meaning of the phrase “natural born citizen.” The Constitution explicitly lays out three requirements to run for president: (i) be at least 35 years old; (ii) have been a resident of the United States for at least 14 years; and (iii) be a natural-born citizen of the United States.

The question of natural born citizenship is crystal clear, though it often gets confused with the more controversial debate surrounding birthright citizenship. From the outset, it should be stressed that the two are entirely different constitutional issues. The question of natural-born citizenship as an eligibility requirement for president is well settled, whereas the issue of birthright citizenship is still up in the air.

There is a reason the Founding Fathers attached the requirement of being a “natural born citizen” to the President (and, with the passage of the Twelfth Amendment, the Vice President) only and no other federal offices. The idea was to elevate the threshold for the highest elected political office of the land; notably, that language is absent in Article I, which stipulates that lawmakers running for the House or Senate need only be “citizens” to qualify. The early debates surrounding the passage of the Constitution add support for the view that the Framers wanted to exclude “the admission of foreigners into the administration of our national government,” as John Jay wrote to George Washington in July of 1787.

A central concern for the architects of the nascent American republic was that only the most qualified statesmen be eligible for the country’s highest office. In his Commentaries, Joseph Story elaborated that “[i]t is indispensable… that the president should be a natural born citizen of the United States… [T]he general propriety of the exclusion of foreigners, in common cases, will scarcely be doubted by any sound statesman.” Joseph Story, who enjoyed over a thirty-year reign as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, famously elaborated the principles of the republicanism of Alexander Hamilton and John Marshall well into the mid-nineteenth century. His Commentaries specifically distinguished between natural born and naturalized citizens, the latter of whom were ineligible to run for president, despite qualifying for the privileges of citizenship. This view is supported by the best legal commentary of the day, Emmerich de Vattel’s Law of Nature and of Nations, a contemporaneous authority for the Founding Fathers on questions of citizenship. de Vattel’s work states that “[t]he natives, or natural-born citizens, are those born in the country, of parents who are citizens.” The question of natural born citizenship is ergo fundamentally distinct from the ongoing issue of birthright citizenship, raised in the Fourteenth Amendment, which confers citizenship to “[a]ll persons born or naturalized in the United States.” The key word here is citizenship, not eligibility for the presidential office, which, as noted earlier, demands a much higher threshold for qualification.

Modern legal scholars have further elaborated on the meaning of the Presidential Eligibility Clause. For example, in a 2008 article published by the Michigan Law Review, Law Professor Lawrence Solum argued that the generally agreed-upon meaning of the relevant article was that “anyone born on American soil whose parents are citizens of the United States is a ‘natural born citizen’.”

John Eastman has also raised the issue of natural born citizenship in the related context of Kamala Harris’ eligibility to serve as Vice President. In a 2020 Newsweek article, Eastman argued that Harris would only qualify as a constitutionally eligible natural-born citizen if her parents were “lawful permanent residents at the time of her birth.” However, in the case of Harris, if her parents were “merely temporary visitors,” then she patently did not qualify as a natural-born citizen pursuant to Article II, Section 1. The logic of Eastman’s argument is straightforward, and I would maintain does not even need to implicate the Fourteenth Amendment or the outstanding question of birthright citizenship, which might otherwise detract from the fundamental soundness of the constitutional issue.

It makes sense that the constitutional Framers did not license the presidency to anyone born on U.S. soil. The specific requirement of natural-born citizenship, which is absent for both members of Congress and the judiciary, was intended to raise the threshold for presidential officeholders in particular. In Nikki Haley’s case, it is well documented that neither one of her parents were citizens, natural born or naturalized, at the time of her birth in 1972. It has been previously reported that a South Carolina-based newspaper included a quote from the Office of Nikki Haley, stating that “her parents were not U.S. citizens at the time of her birth in 1972 and did not become citizens until 1978 and 2003.” Thus, although the parents may have been lawful residents at the time of her birth on South Carolina soil, which may or may not confer her with the privileges of citizenship, it is important to note that she does not qualify for the Constitution’s higher requirement of natural-born citizenship.

In addition, the Twelfth Amendment states that “no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States.” In short, because Haley is ineligible to serve as president, having not satisfied the Presidential Eligibility Clause, she also cannot serve as vice president. Now, the vast majority of legal scholarship offering an opinion to the contrary will cite the seminal Supreme Court decision, Wong Kim Ark. The relevant issue there, however, was not whether someone whose natural born citizenship was in question might serve in the highest office of the land, but rather whether such a person was entitled to the bare minimums of American citizenship. Thus, the legal issues are completely different. The Court in Wong Kim Ark decided whether citizenship might be conferred upon an individual born on American soil to non-citizen parents. Importantly, in Wong Kim Ark, nowhere does the Court ever state that natural-born citizens are synonymous with citizens. While numerous equivalences are made between “natural-born” citizens (or “subjects;” the terms are used interchangeably throughout, even though there is a relevant legal distinction) and citizens, the Court notably took pains to distinguish between the two categories, merely analogizing the two for the purposes of ultimately arguing in favor of birthright citizenship. Regardless of the ultimate legitimacy of the decision, which many constitutional scholars have contested over the intervening years, the important takeaway is that even in Wong Kim Ark, the supposed authority in favor of Haley’s eligibility to run for president, the Court never asserted that birthright citizenship would hereinafter absorb and eradicate the distinct category of “natural-born” citizenship.

It may well be argued that the reason the Court in Wong Kim Ark upheld that distinction was that it contemplated future cases like Nikki Haley’s, where a non-natural-born citizen might ask not merely for the bare minimum rights of citizenship but additional rights, namely the right to be eligible to run for president, which runs afoul of both the textual prerogative and original meaning of the Constitution itself. The logic of this is intuitive: the bare necessities of American citizenship, consistent with the principles of natural right, do not entail that additional rights must be conferred on that basis alone. Nature, in other words, does not automatically confer one with the presidential office nor the bare minimum duties, such as age and time residing in the country, requirements that the Framers wrote into the Presidential Eligibility Clause.

The Framers had a robust understanding of natural right. They fiercely upheld the view that duties must be imposed on the body politic in general and certain outstanding statesmen in particular in order to meet the higher demands of elected office that would, in turn, perpetuate the original social contract for posterity. To the extent that model has broken down in modern times, it is because of flagrant violations lawmakers, like Nikki Haley and Kamala Harris, have committed in the subsequent centuries against the Constitution’s intended meaning over the years. This has gradually whittled the Framers’ once robust tapestry down to the bone, producing a crisis whereby persons, with no historical awareness nor reverence for the Constitution’s meaning or purpose, openly defy its conditions willy-nilly, out of personal vanity or even resentment. Nikki Haley’s flagrant defiance of the Constitution’s textual prerogative, if allowed to continue, will further erode what remnants of that original tapestry still survive, thrusting all that remains of the Framers’ now-enervated handiwork into inexorably aimless waters.

Paul Ingrassia is a Law Clerk, a two-time Claremont Fellow, and served on President Trump’s National Economic Council. He writes a widely read Substack that is regularly re-truthed by President Trump. His Twitter handle is: @PaulIngrassia.

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About Paul Ingrassia

Paul Ingrassia is a Claremont Publius and John Marshall Fellow and served in President Trump’s National Economic Council. He graduated from Cornell Law School in 2022. His Twitter handle is: @PaulIngrassia.

Photo: NEVADA, IOWA - DECEMBER 18: Republican presidential candidate former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley addresses the crowd during a campaign stop at the Nevada Fairgrounds community building on December 18, 2023 in Nevada, Iowa. Iowa Republicans will be the first to select their party's nominee for the 2024 presidential race when they go to caucus on January 15, 2024. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Notable Replies

  1. Avatar for Alecto Alecto says:

    A most excellent explanation of the issues and facts surrounding Article II.'s natural born citizen language and its deliberate conflation with “birthright” citizenship, which American Marxists are using to destroy the republic. It is critical to understand why immigrants and their children, as well as visa-holders on non-immigrant status present a creeping threat to the republic. Nikki Haley’s donors ought to be thrashed, but let us look at the current field and errors which allowed completely ineligible persons to inhabit offices for which they were and are not constitutionally qualified:

    1. Barak Hussein Obama - A man whose foreign citizen father NEVER obtained U.S. citizenship, was most likely guilty of bigamy as he was married to a woman in Kenya at the time he “married” Obama’s mother and could never have made a claim to father a natural born citizen, as Obama, Sr. was in the U.S. on a student visa, a non-immigrant visa. Yet, race trumps logic, facts and law. Where was the Supreme Court during this constitutional crisis? John Roberts also committed a grave constitutional error in swearing in Obama. He should be impeached.

    2. Kamala Harris - A woman whose parents came to the U.S. on student visas, again non-immigrant status, and gave birth to Kamala. Neither was a U.S. citizen at the time of her birth. She, like Obama, was raised in another country (Canada) and that further distances her and Obama from eligibility based on natural born language in Article II. and the implied allegiance to only this country and its Constitution. She is ineligible for the office she holds. The rot in D.C. spreads.

    3. Vivek Ramaswamy - this one pains me, as he admitted his father has never taken the U.S. citizenship test. Only his mother is a U.S. citizen, and that disqualifies him for the Office of the President of the U.S. It is a tragedy as Ramaswamy represents the best of immigration. He loves this country and has an excellent grasp of the crisis we’re facing.

    Eliminating Civics combined with mass, uncontrolled immigration, both legal and illegal, lasting decades has dire effects on the health of this republic. As I write this, another crisis develops: 400,000 anchor babies will reach voting age this year. In 2023, more babies were born to illegal aliens than American citizens. What does “citizenship” mean any longer if it isn’t 1) exclusive and 2) hinged on legal status, duties and responsibilities?

    Anyone who believes “diversity is our strength” is an idiot and a dangerous one. Americans had best stop their nonsensical self-suicide in the name of “equity” or an immigration policy based on Big Corporate’s greed, which is not a pillar of the U.S. charter documents.

  2. You left out Ted Cruz .
    Oh they’ll use these issues when it is politically advantagious for them . Take team Obama trying to disqualify McCain from the race back then because he was born off base when his father was serving his freakin country in Panama , talk about projection eh ? Good Lord , of course we know that M.I.C.cain was whom he was and all ,but on principle we gotta roll . What if Barry’s actual Baby Daddy was Frank Marshall Davis the card carrying commie pederast from Da Islands Bruh ?
    Sorry , it appears that I will remain a wild man into 2024 after all .
    The NBC requirement makes perfect sense to me . Yes sometimes you gotta wait your turn and get some skin in the game first , not have possible divided loyalties , or at least lessen the possibility that someone with such divided loyalties could assume the highest office in the land . Its not a panacea as I pointed out with my "Barack Marshall Davis " hypothetical . Uncle “pops " Frank having been an NBC while at the same time representing as a mentor to the formative world view of Lil Barry Soetero’s , as much a danger to the republic as any non NBC . But just because its not a panacea doesn’t make it not a common sense prophylactic . And your right Ted Cruz / Ramaswathy , though obviously both all in for preserving the republic as constituted nevertheless should be disqualified . What good are rules if we don’t adhere to them ?, and yes we need to pick our rules very carefully because at the same time unjust laws are well , unjust ( not in harmony with NATURAL LAW ? GOD and natures Kingdom yada yada etc ) and should be shit canned of course . I love birtherism , almost as much as I love thinking about psychological warfare / manipulation . Happy New Year Alecto !!!And find something to hold onto , I think its gonna be a bumpy ride .
    Oh one more important observation. In the text they left too much ambiguity with the” an NBC ,or a citizen , at the time of the adoption of this Constitution " part obviously . I understand it to mean that at the time of the adoption of this constitution there couldn’t have been any persons born of two US citizens because obviously the US was just coming into being and chronology is a stubborn thing unless you have a time machine so . But yeah they shoulda coulda woulda spent a little more time on that one making it crystal clear and as simple and self evident as possible . the comas and the order of things in that clause left it open, if only just barely for the left to basardize . Speaking of ( literal )Bastards , are they less likely to be properly psychologically equipped to be Commander In Chief ? The Clinton and Obama administrations seem to indicate as much . Shit don’t always "seem "fair on the surface but sometimes you just cant be too careful on certain matters of grave consequence to us all, as recent history has so painfully took us out behind the woodshed and taught us .Or should have .

  3. Give it up. The courts and Federal law have made it clear that anyone born on US soil is a “natural born citizen” and that includes Niki Haley, no matter how much I detest her. Ditto for Kamala Harris. South Carolina Republicans should have never allowed her to become governor - she ruined the state - but that’s another story. I will NEVER vote for her and if by some fluke she becomes the nominee, I will not vote.

    The potential candidate who really is barred by the Constitution is conservative darling Ted Cruz, who is despised by many Republicans here in Texas. Cruz was born in Canada to a Cuban father and an American mother. He remained in Canada until around age 4 when his father, who had returned to the United Sttes, convinced his mother, who he had left in Canada, to rejoin him after he became a Christian. There are strict rules regarding citizenship of children born outside the US. While they have the RIGHT to citizenship, they do not become NATURALIZED citizens until their parents record their birth at a US consulate. Cruz has never explained when he actually became a citizen.

    Regardless, if a child is born in the US they are a natural born citizen - PERIOD! The author is blowing smoke.

  4. Dude ,if the process of "naturalization " is required then that someone is not a natural born citizen . No process is required hence the term " natural " . And no , I will not give up on my birtherism ", or my "election denialism ", or my anti covid vaxxerism ( not all vaxxes are created equally ) just because you say thats what “all the kool kids” are doing . In the words of Greta " HOW DARE YOU !!??"lol , happy new years bruh .(-:

  5. Avatar for task task says:

    Has anyone paid attention to the very last stipulation? All of the aforementioned should be considered based upon the additional stipulation of what a citizen was considered “at the time” of adoption of the Constitution. I doubt that language could even be changed by a Constitutional Amendment using the two Constitutional processes that enable Amending the Constitution. Citizenship is not the same as Natural born citizen under specific and different times.

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