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Chapman University law professor John Eastman, whose column questioned Senator Kamala Harris's eligibility as vice president, sparked a firestorm of debate and earned him a nod from President Donald Trump. The criticism of his opinions was brushed aside as "nonsense" on Friday.

"It's been pretty interesting days," Eastman told the City News Service.

Critics berated Eastman for his Newsweek column on Harris this week, claiming it fueled a new "birth movement" – revived the conspiracy theory that originally claimed that Barack Obama was born in Kenya instead of Hawaii and was therefore not eligible for president.

This movement was mainly led by then private citizen Donald Trump.

Although Eastman's column raised eyebrows when it was published on Wednesday, it erupted into a national debate when Trump discussed it the next day in the White House, praising Eastman as "a very highly skilled, very talented lawyer." Trump did not deny claims that Harris – who was born in Oakland – may not be eligible for the Vice President. He said, “I heard today that she did not meet the requirements.” He later added, “I have no idea if that's true. "

Harris was selected as the alleged Democratic presidential candidate by Joe Biden this week.

Eastman told CNS Friday that it was ironic that he received so much criticism "for publishing an academic article on a subject that I've been writing about for 20 years."

"Email and Twitter trolls are very special," said Eastman. "I hope our politics can recede from the abyss where Twitter troll analysis of a problem seems to become dialogue today."

Eastman argued that constitutional law was not yet settled on whether birth in the United States automatically makes you a citizen. Many other scholars disagree and have made this the standard, but Eastman said the authors of the law had two requirements:

– one that the person must have been born on American soil;

– and second, that the person is subject exclusively to US law. To be president, you must be a native of the United States.

Harris was born in Oakland in 1964, but Eastman wonders if her Jamaican father and Indian mother were in the country that would qualify as a green card that Friday.

"It is entirely possible that they applied for and received green card status," said Eastman. "But even if they were going to school at that time, it was much more likely that they were here on a student visa."

If they were here on a student visa, that wouldn't be enough to qualify Harris as president, but it wouldn't stop her from becoming a senator, argued Eastman.

"Maybe at the end of the day the Supreme Court will say it doesn't matter," he said, referring to the parent's status. "You might say birth is all we need, but you've never done that before. And it remains an open question."

Eastman denied allegations that he bowed to "birthright" or that his opinion was based on racism or sexism.

"To say that I only did this because she's black and a woman is nonsense," Eastman said.

He also brushed aside criticism that his column was sour grapes as he ran unsuccessfully for attorney general in 2010 – a position Harris eventually won. Eastman said he finished second in Republican Elementary School and lost to former Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley.

"So I never ran against Kamala Harris," said Eastman.

"If I got sour grapes against anyone, it would be Steve Cooley," he added with a laugh.

Eastman remembered taking part in a debate with the Democratic candidates because he was the only Republican to agree.

"I went out there and said she was the best of the Democratic candidates they had," said Eastman. "If that shows that I have a grudge, then people aren't looking very carefully."

Eastman admitted he found Harris' stance "terrible on legal matters" and criticized her time as attorney general.

The turmoil the column sparked did not damage Eastman's reputation at Chapman University.

"Chapman University respects the academic freedom of all of its faculties," said Jamie S. Ceman, Chapman's vice president of strategic marketing and communications. "The opinions expressed by the faculty are their own and we will never limit their right to express them. However, they do not represent the opinions of the institution."

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