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New York conviction won’t block Trump’s path to White House if voters put him back in office: Experts

Trump’s conviction still seems to be the main media focus, as the former president and presumptive Republican nominee is headed to California on a fundraising tour. With the hopes of raking in huge sums of cash, Trump’s campaign will host two events in the Golden State in what is the first campaigning event since his conviction, and he is expected to play up his position as a “political prisoner” in an effort to appeal to donors. At one specific event, the entry ticket price is set at $50,000, the cheapest one could get.

The guilty verdict

The New York hush-money trial ended less than a week ago, last Thursday, when the jury found former President Donald Trump guilty of all 34 counts of falsifying business records. The jurors said they unanimously agreed Trump falsified those business records to conceal a hush money payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels in order to influence the outcome of the 2016 election. The conviction immediately raised many questions, including the one about whether a convicted felon” is legally able to run for president, having in mind that Trump secured the minimum required number of delegates nearly three months ago.

Can a convict run for president?

The US Constitution lays out just three requirements for presidential candidates. They must:

  • Be a natural born citizen.
  • Be at least 35 years old.
  • Have been a US resident for at least 14 years.

Trump meets all three necessary conditions. Additionally, the 14th Amendment suggests another standard, stating that anyone who has taken an oath to the Constitution and then participates in an insurrection cannot hold a US office. However, the US Supreme Court decided earlier this year that for this rule to be applied, Congress must enact a specific law. This is unlikely to occur in the near future.

What are experts saying

“The short answer is yes, that there’s no constitutional bar,” said Corey Brettschneider, a lawyer and professor of political science at Brown University and author of “The Presidents and the People,” to CBS NEWS. “The Constitution lays out some specific requirements of what’s required … but there’s nothing explicitly in the Constitution about being convicted of a crime as a disqualification.”

“There’s a wide understanding that the qualifications listed in the Constitution are exclusive — that is, we can’t add to those qualifications,” said Derek Muller, an election law professor at the University of Notre Dame. He added, “Whether or not you’ve been convicted of a felony is immaterial for qualification purposes.”

The 14th Amendment doesn’t imply in this case

Several states attempted to disqualify Trump from office under the 14th Amendment’s insurrection clause following the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. In December, the Colorado Supreme Court decided Trump could be removed from the primary ballot due to his actions on Jan. 6 and concerns related to the 14th Amendment, which prevents those who have engaged in insurrection and previously sworn to uphold the Constitution from holding office. However, in March, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned this decision, ruling that Trump should be reinstated on the ballot because the enforcement of the insurrection clause is a congressional responsibility. This Supreme Court decision ended various legal challenges to Trump’s eligibility that were initiated by voters in multiple states.

Brettschneider pointed out that the Constitution authorizes Congress to pass legislation to implement the 14th Amendment’s third section.

Despite being a convicted felon, Trump can run for President in November. Even if jailed, the law gives anyone the right to run for president.
Prison. Credit: Unsplash Premium

Trump can also run if imprisoned

Trump’s sentence might not involve jail time, yet if he becomes president, the consequences of any sentence could be more intricate. While there are no laws preventing someone from running for president or even winning an election while in prison, nor any prohibiting them from serving as president from behind bars, the situation could become complex.

If Trump is sentenced to prison and subsequently wins the election, his legal team could contend that sitting presidents are immune from imprisonment, mirroring his previous claims that sitting presidents cannot be indicted.

Trump can pardon himself, but not in the hush-money case

If Donald Trump were to win the presidential election in November and assume office, he would have the authority to pardon federal offenses. However, this power does not extend to state crimes, meaning he could not grant himself clemency for the 34 felony charges he faces in New York State.

The basis for presidential pardon power is found in Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, which grants the president the ability to issue pardons and reprieves for federal crimes, except in cases of impeachment. However, crimes prosecuted by states are not covered under this federal jurisdiction. Therefore, if Trump seeks a pardon for his state felonies, he would need to request it from the governor of New York, just like any other person convicted of a state crime.

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