New York: Donald Trump became the first former president of the United States to be charged with federal criminal charges just over a year ago. In early January 2023, the indictment of 37 charges against him was announced after Jack Smith, the special prosecutor, accused him in the U.S. District Court in Miami.
According to the charges, 76-year-old Trump faces 37 charges, including the unauthorized retention of classified files. The indictment detailing the charges states that Trump’s residence in Mar-a-Lago, Florida, “was not an authorized location for the storage, possession, display, or storage of classified documents.” The record states that “there were secret documents even in the bathroom and shower, and some of them contained information about the U.S. nuclear program.”
Despite his legal troubles, is it feasible for Trump to be elected president? According to various legal experts consulted by several news agencies, Donald Trump has pleaded not guilty in all cases, and it is unlikely that his legal problems will prevent him from being elected President of the United States if elected.
The 14th Amendment’s Insurrection Clause of the Constitution is the primary concern Trump might have, as this Amendment prohibits officials who participated in “insurrection or rebellion” from holding federal office, including the presidency. Democrats have initiated legal proceedings to disqualify former President Donald Trump under this legal provision, but it is unclear whether they can present sufficient evidence in court.
On December 19, 2023, the Colorado Supreme Court decided that Trump could not participate in the state’s primary elections because he allegedly participated in an insurrection on January 6, 2021, when his followers attacked the U.S. Capitol. However, it is essential to demonstrate the former president’s involvement in those events. The decision of the Colorado Federal Court has been appealed by Trump’s lawyers to the U.S. Supreme Court, although it is unlikely that the high court will prevent Trump from appearing on the state’s ballot.
There is a great debate among experts about whether the president can be subject to the Insurrection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. A lower court judge who agreed that Trump had participated in the insurrection was overturned by the Colorado decision, which stated that he was not a “United States official” who could be disqualified by the Amendment. Similar lawsuits filed against Trump in Minnesota, Michigan, and New Hampshire have been rejected by judges.
Among the federal cases against Trump, there is one for illegally trying to overturn his defeat in the 2020 elections against Democrat Joe Biden and another for handling classified documents when leaving office. Jack Smith, the U.S. special prosecutor, presented both cases. Additionally, Trump has been charged in a New York state court for payments to a porn star and attempting to overturn and nullify the election results in the 2016 elections and Georgia.
According to a poll conducted in early December by Reuters/Ipsos, even if a jury found Trump guilty of a severe crime, 52% of self-identifying Republican voters would still vote for him, while 46% would vote for him if he were serving a prison sentence. Approximately 31% of Republicans would not vote for him if he were declared guilty, and 39% would not vote for him if he were incarcerated. The rest said they had no idea what to do.
If Trump is incarcerated, could he still be elected president? Since Eugene Debs conducted his campaign from jail over a hundred years ago, the United States had not seen a situation similar to the current one: a significant candidate convicted of a serious crime involving the presidency. Never before had such a candidate had a possible victory. The campaign of former President Donald Trump has no restrictions. Although he has been accused of numerous severe crimes in three cases, two federal and one in New York, there is still a long time before verdicts are issued, so it is believed that Trump if elected by the people, has no legal way to be prevented.
Can Trump pardon himself if elected in the presidential elections? If Trump is elected president in 2024, he could attempt to pardon himself if found guilty in any federal case, according to legal consultants’ opinions. Although jurists disagree on whether a self-pardon violates the fundamental principle that no one should be a judge in their case, presidents have broad powers to grant pardons. Therefore, the case would inevitably reach the Supreme Court, where his fate would ultimately be decided.
According to the law, Trump lacks the power to justify himself in state courts. Even if convicted in the New York or Georgia cases, he can still be elected and sworn in. The Georgia case is expected to happen after the elections, so if Trump is elected president in November, it would become an unprecedented legal singularity.