The Conversation: Trump indictment won’t keep him from presidential race, but will make his reelection bid much harder

by | Mar 30, 2023 | Stock Market

A Manhattan grand jury has voted to indict former President Donald Trump. The specific state felony charges have not yet been revealed, but will be related to the Manhattan district attorney’s investigation of Trump for making hush money payments to a porn star just before the 2016 presidential election. It’s the first time a U.S. president or former president has been indicted.

At the same time, Trump is expected to continue his campaign for the presidency, seeking to regain in 2024 the position he lost in 2020 to Joe Biden. What are the consequences of an indictment and potential trial for his campaign and, if his effort is successful, his future presidency? Article II of the U.S. Constitution sets forth very explicit qualifications for the presidency: The president must be 35 years of age, a U.S. resident for 14 years and a natural-born citizen. In cases involving analogous qualifications for members of Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that such qualifications form a “constitutional ceiling” — prohibiting any additional qualifications to be imposed by any means. Thus, because the Constitution does not require that the president be free from indictment, conviction or prison, it follows that a person under indictment or in prison may run for the office and may even serve as president. This is the prevailing legal standard that would apply to former President Trump. The fact of his indictment and potential trial is irrelevant to his qualifications for office under the Constitution. Nevertheless, there seems no question that indictment, conviction or both — let alone a prison sentence — would significantly compromise a president’s ability to function in office. And the Constitution doesn’t provide an easy answer to the problem posed by such a compromised chief executive. Governing from jail? A presidential candidate could be indicted, prosecuted and convicted by either state or federal authorities. Indictment for a state crime may seem less significant than federal charges brought by the Department of Justice. Ultimately, though, the spectacle of a criminal trial in state or federal court would have a dramatic effect on a presidential campaign and on the credibili …

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