Can Donald Trump still run for president despite indictment?
A Manhattan grand jury has voted to indict Donald Trump on charges involving payments made during the 2016 presidential campaign to silence claims of an extramarital sexual encounter, his lawyers said Thursday, producing the first criminal case against a former U.S. president and a jolt to Trump’s bid to retake the White House.
Trump, who has denied any wrongdoing and has repeatedly attacked the investigation, called the indictment “political persecution” and predicted it would damage Democrats in 2024.
The indictment is an extraordinary development after years of investigations into his business, political and personal dealings. It is likely to galvanize critics who say Trump lied and cheated his way to the top and embolden supporters who feel the Republican is being unfairly targeted by a Democratic prosecutor.
In a statement, his lawyers, Susan Necheles and Joseph Tacopina, said: “He did not commit any crime. We will vigorously fight this political prosecution in court.”
Yes, Trump can still run for president
Nothing in the U.S. Constitution prohibits candidates with criminal records from holding office.
The only qualifications needed to run is to be at least 35 years old and be a natural born citizen who has lived in the country for at least 14 years.
However, according to Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, a person who has engaged in an insurrection or rebellion against the United States, cannot hold office unless overcome with a two-thirds vote from Congress.
Minutes after the indictment was announced Thursday, Trump released a lengthy statement calling it the next step in a campaign from the left “to destroy the Make America Great Again movement.”
“The Democrats have lied, cheated and stolen in their obsession with trying to ‘Get Trump,’ but now they’ve done the unthinkable – indicting a completely innocent person in an act of blatant Election Interference,” Trump’s statement said.
Trump accused Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg of “doing Joe Biden’s dirty work, ignoring the murders and burglaries and assaults he should be focused on.”
Alina Habba, an attorney for Trump, said the former president is a victim “of a corrupt and distorted version of the American justice system and history. He will be vindicated.”
An indictment wouldn’t stop Trump from continuing his campaign. There is no prohibition against running while facing criminal charges — or even following conviction. Indeed, convicted felons have run for president before, including from behind bars.
How will this impact his chances of winning in 2024?
Trump faces other potential legal perils as he seeks to reassert control of the Republican Party and stave off a slew of one-time allies who are seeking or are likely to oppose him for the presidential nomination.
The district attorney in Atlanta has for two years been investigating efforts by Trump and his allies to meddle in Georgia’s 2020 vote count. And a U.S. Justice Department special counsel is investigating Trump’s storage of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago home in Florida and his efforts to reverse his election loss.
Politically, Trump allies believe the case actually will benefit the former president in the short term by energizing his base in a competitive Republican primary, and would provide another boost later on if it ultimately fails to yield a conviction.
“The prosecutor in New York has done more to help Donald Trump get elected,” says Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., echoing other GOP officials, who have also argued the probe will likely help Trump in the short term, even if it could prove damaging in a general election.
“It boggles the mind to think that we have an ex-president on the eve of being indicted still the frontrunner for the Republican Party in 2024,” said presidential historian Douglas Brinkley weeks before Trump was indicted. “You would have thought (potentially) being arrested would have been a disqualifying factor in presidential politics. But Trump constantly surprises people by his devious and inappropriate behavior that he transcends by turning it into being a victim of a witch hunt.” source
Can Trump still run for president if indicted? Convicted? How indictment could affect 2024
Donald Trump has become the first former president to face criminal charges in U.S. history, indicted in New York for the role he played in paying hush money to a porn star.
The historic indictment raises many questions as the country barrels toward the 2024 presidential election, in which Trump is the leading candidate for the Republican nomination.
Whether the indictment will help or hinder Trump politically is yet to be seen, though early fundraising numbers suggest the charges have mobilized his base. But experts say legally, the indictment changes little for how the former president can proceed in his bid for the nation’s highest office.
Can Trump still run for president if indicted? Convicted?
“Absolutely,” said Jessica Levinson, founding director of Loyola Law School’s Public Service Institute.
The Constitution lays out the exclusive qualifications to run for the presidency, she said.
There are three requirements:
- Natural-born citizen.
- At least 35 years old.
- Resident of the U.S. for at least 14 years.
“That could be because the founders just didn’t envision that we would have people who are facing indictment and potentially conviction running for the highest office in the land,” she said.
In fact, the former president has said he does not plan to drop out of the 2024 race despite his legal problems.
“I won’t even think about leaving,” Trump told reporters before a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference in March.
“Probably, it’ll enhance my numbers.”
What is an arraignment?:What the legal proceeding means following Trump’s indictment
Why was Trump indicted?
The charges against Trump have not been made public. But the New York grand jury was investigating the former president for a $130,000 payment he made just before the 2016 election to silence adult film star Stormy Daniels about an earlier affair.
Trump has denied the affair and any wrongdoing, calling the investigation a politically motivated “witch hunt” and urging his supporters to protest his treatment. Trump lawyer Joseph Tacopina called the indictment a “political prosecution” and said Trump’s team would fight it in court.
How does a grand jury work?
Grand juries decide whether a prosecutor’s evidence provides probable cause to issue an indictment, according to Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute.
Usually made up of 16 to 23 people, grand juries meet in private as an investigative body independent of a prosecuting attorney or judge. A district attorney shows the grand jury evidence and asks jurors to consider certain charges, David Weinstein, a former federal and state prosecutor, told USA TODAY.
Then the jury votes in secret on whether enough evidence exists to charge someone with a crime. If the majority of the jury believes a person committed a crime, it returns with an indictment. If it does not, the person is not required to plead to a criminal charge and there is no trial.
To be a grand juror in New York, where Trump was indicted, a person must be a U.S. citizen, at least 18 years old, a resident of the county to which they’re summoned to serve and able to understand and communicate in English. A person can’t have a felony conviction.
What is a grand jury?:What to know about the jury that voted to indict Trump.
What law is Trump accused of breaking?
The exact charges Trump faces are still unknown. But the grand jury’s investigation gives some insight into the law or laws the former president may have broken.
Public information from witnesses who have been debriefed by prosecutors and provided testimony to the grand jury indicate that the investigation’s main focus has not strayed far from the payment Trump made to Daniels ahead of his 2016 campaign.
The hush money payment could be used to build a case for falsifying business records and violating campaign finance law.
“The crime here appears to be the falsification of business records to conceal the hush money payments by falsely describing them as legal fees,” said Barbara McQuade, a former U.S. attorney and now law professor at the University of Michigan. “The crime becomes a felony if it covers up another crime.”
Is hush money legal?
A hush money payment itself is not illegal, according to Levinson and McQuade.
“In this case, it appears that Stormy Daniels sold the rights to her story about an alleged affair with Trump to the National Enquirer, giving it exclusive rights to print it,” McQuade said. “The National Enquirer chose to never print the story. As long as Daniels got paid, there is no crime in that contractual arrangement.”
How will Trump’s indictment affect the 2024 presidential race?
Legally, not much. But politically, it could be a different story.