During the first Republican primary debate of 2016, Sen. Ted Cruz ripped into Donald Trump on Thursday night like you haven’t seen before.
Cruz was asked to address the allegations lodged against him — namely by Trump — that his Canadian birth made him ineligible to seek the presidency. In response, Cruz pointed out that Trump was only pursuing the birther issue as a means of retaliating against Cruz’s rise in the polls.
“Donald said he had his lawyers look at this from every which way and there was no issue there. There was nothing to this birther issue,” Cruz said. “Now since September, the Constitution hasn’t changed, but the poll numbers have.”
“I recognize that Donald is dismayed that his poll numbers are falling in Iowa. But the facts and law here are really quite clear,” he said. “If a soldier has a child abroad, that child is a natural born citizen. That is why John McCain, even though he was born in Panama was eligible to run for president. If an American missionary has a child abroad, that child is a natural born citizen.”
He explained that some of the more extreme birther theories insist that a presidential candidate and both of his or her parents must be born in the United States.
“Under that theory, not only would I be disqualified, Marco Rubio would be disqualified, Bobby Jindal would be disqualified and interestingly enough, Donald J. Trump would be disqualified,” Cruz said. “On the issue of citizenship Donald, I’m not going to use your mother’s birth against you.”
When pressed, Trump conceded that his pursuit of the birther issue was an attempt to hurt his opponent after he realized Cruz’s poll numbers were improving. Though he added that his intentions don’t negate Cruz’s potential ineligibility and even suggested that he ought to seek legal counsel to determine whether or not he is truly qualified to run for president.
In response, Cruz had some choice words for Trump, to which the audience erupted in applause.
“Listen, I spent my entire life defending the constitution before the U.S. Supreme court and I’ll tell you I’m not going to be taking legal advice from Donald Trump,” Cruz said.
Ouch. Someone send Trump some ice for that burn.