Within seconds of being asked about Ted Cruz's eligibility to serve as president given his having been born in Canada, Donald Trump pulled the Famous Donald Trump Switcheroo on it, turning it from "Trump attacks Cruz" into "Trump is very worried for his friend Ted Cruz."
"Republicans are going to have to ask themselves the question: ‘Do we want a candidate who could be tied up in court for two years?’ That’d be a big problem," Trump said when the question came up in January. Perhaps Trump then melodramatically wrung his hands, I cannot say for sure.
At first, Trump suggested that Cruz go to a court and get a preemptive "all-clear." But as Cruz continued to hang around, Trump's constant shadow in the polls, the businessman started suggesting directly that he himself might sue. That threat (on which Trump has sort of hemmed and hawed about following through) prompted us to explain how such a lawsuit might move forward. The short version of the story is that Trump, as a candidate running against Cruz, probably has legal standing to sue whether or not a court thinks that the argument itself has merits. (As a candidate, Trump is harmed if Cruz isn't eligible to be president, since those are essentially wasted votes.)
But since this whole thing emerged, there have also been a slew of lawsuits filed by other people, including one from a man in Illinois that is being heard in Cook County Circuit Court on Friday. It's not likely that this case -- or any of the others -- will be successful, but if Trump was looking to see if the spaghetti would stick to the wall, he found a lot of people willing to toss a few strands.
Here are the lawsuits we know about:
Illinois: Lawrence Joyce. Joyce, a Ben Carson supporter, first filed a complaint with the Illinois Board of Elections to keep Cruz's name off the ballot. That complaint was tossed earlier this month, although it did prompt Cruz's campaign to offer a memo making its case for Cruz's ability to serve as president.
It hinges on equating the Constitution's mandated "natural born citizen" and the legal articulation of a "citizen at birth" -- an equation that's not uncommon in assessments of Cruz's ability to serve.
The Board of Elections dismissed the complaint, so Joyce sued. That case is being heard on Friday. The odds of success are low, given that it will be hard for Joyce to prove that he personally suffers from Cruz's being on the ballot if, indeed, Cruz is determined to be ineligible.
New York: Barry Korman and William Gallo. Two residents of New York filed a suit against that state's Board of Elections this week seeking to keep Cruz's name off the ballot there.
As Bloomberg (the news outlet, not the potential independent candidate) reported, the lawyer for the pair is Roger Bernstein, who previously sued Trump after security guards at Trump Tower struck an immigration protester.
Alabama: Sebastian Green, Shannon Duncan, Kathryn Spears, Kyle Spears and Jerry Parker. Five people filed a federal lawsuit in Alabama hoping for a determination that Cruz is ineligible to "qualify/run/seek and be elected to the Office of the President," according to The Hill.
It seems unlikely that the court would make a determination that he's ineligible to run. When we explored the outer reaches of presidential bids with an expert last August, he noted that the Constitution only defines who can serve as president. Anyone can run; only natural born citizens over the age of 35 can actually serve.
Several of the people filing the suit in Alabama are Trump supporters, we'll note.
Texas: Newton Schwartz. There's an interesting, if inadvertent, point in Schwartz's lawsuit, as quoted by The Hill. "However persuasive one finds each side in this debate," Schwartz writes, "the final decision ultimately rests in the hands of five or more of nine Justices on the Supreme Court as mandated by the Constitution."
Of course, there are no longer nine Supreme Court justices, and it seems likely that there may not be by next January. What would a split-decision on the newly shrunken Supreme Court mean for President-elect Ted Cruz? Let's just hope it won't come to that.
Utah: Walter Wagner. And one more. To BuzzFeed, Wagner explained that, "I’m a natural-born citizen, and most people are in this country, and it just doesn’t seem proper." What is and isn't a natural-born citizen, of course, is what Wagner would like the court to decide.
Just because there are a lot of these lawsuits doesn't mean that the chances of success increase. We'll see what happens in Chicago, but the odds are good that only a suit from a candidate opposing Cruz would have much chance of being heard, much less resolved in Trump's favor.
But this is America. If people only sued when there was a reason to do so and a chance they'd win, what fun would that be?
Update: As it turns out, we missed some. Derek Muller, associate professor of law at Pepperdine University, has been keeping a tally of the suits (including a couple against Marco Rubio for the same reason). His is more comprehensive.