Donald Trump can still run for 2024 presidency even if convicted in classified documents case

None of the charges would bar former U.S. President Donald Trump from taking office again if he is convicted.

June 14, 2023 09:29 pm | Updated 10:30 pm IST - MIAMI

Former U.S. President Donald Trump. File

Former U.S. President Donald Trump. File | Photo Credit: AP

Donald Trump can continue his campaign for another term in the White House even as the beleaguered former U.S. president has been indicted for illegally retaining classified government documents after leaving office in 2021.

Mr. Trump, 77, on Tuesday, pleaded not guilty to 37 federal felony counts related to his mishandling of classified documents at the federal courthouse in Miami, Florida.

It marks the first time federal charges have been brought against a former president. This indictment is the second criminal case filed against Trump, the frontrunner for the Republican Party’s nomination in the 2024 presidential election.

In early April, Mr. Trump surrendered to authorities in New York and appeared in state court to face 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in the first degree. He pleaded not guilty to those charges also.

On May 9, Trump was found liable in a civil case brought by columnist E. Jean Carroll, who claimed he raped her and defamed her. Mr. Trump denied those allegations. The jury did not find that he raped Ms. Carroll, but did find that he sexually abused her, and ordered him to pay her roughly $5 million.

Big question

The three cases raise an intriguing question about his bid to retake the White House in 2024: Can he still become the U.S. president if he’s convicted in New York or Florida, or now that he’s been found liable in the Carroll case? The short answer, from a legal perspective, is yes, according to experts.

None of the charges would bar Mr. Trump from taking office if he is convicted. A trial would take place many months from now, and Mr. Trump can freely campaign during this time.

“Nothing stops Trump from running while indicted, or even convicted,” the University of California, Los Angeles law professor Richard Hasen told CNN.

Constitutional criteria

The Constitution requires only three things of the candidates: A candidate must be a natural-born citizen, at least 35 years old and a resident of the U.S. for at least 14 years.

There are a few other Constitutional restrictions that can block a person from running for president — but they don’t apply to Mr. Trump.

It’s pretty widely accepted that the list of qualifications in the Constitution is exclusive — that is, Congress or states can’t add qualifications to those listed in the Constitution,” said Derek Muller, a law professor at the University of Iowa, before Trump’s indictment.

“It’s something that really doesn’t affect your ability to run as a candidate, to appear on the ballot, or to even win the election,” he was quoted as saying by CBS News.

“If you’re convicted of a felony and incarcerated, you can’t vote, but you can win the election. The point is, there were meant to be very few qualifications, and it was meant to be left to the voters or the state,” Mr. Muller said.

14th Amendment

In the wake of the January 6 attack on the Capitol, some House Democrats introduced a bill seeking to bar Mr. Trump from holding office again by invoking the 14th Amendment, which bars anyone who has “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” or “given aid or comfort” to enemies of the U.S. after having taken an oath to support the Constitution.

That bill never made it out of the House of Representatives before Republicans took control in January.

The former president also faces several other criminal investigations on the state and federal levels that could complicate his ability to campaign for the nomination. But none of those cases would technically prevent him from running for or winning the White House, even if he is ultimately convicted, the report said.

Incumbent U.S. President Joe Biden, a Democrat, has already announced his bid for the White House for a second time.

The next presidential election is scheduled for November 5, 2024

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