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Trump can still run for president in 2024 after being indicted

Though a former president has never been convicted of a crime, even that wouldn’t bar Trump from running again. And some advisers think the indictment could be a good thing for his campaign.

Former president Donald Trump arrives for a campaign rally in Waco, Tex., on Saturday. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
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A Manhattan grand jury’s decision to indict Donald Trump makes him the first former president to be charged with a crime after leaving office. But it doesn’t prevent him from continuing his campaign to return to the White House as president in 2024.

Even a guilty verdict would not disqualify Trump’s bid for the White House, according to Anna G. Cominsky, a professor at New York Law School, or keep him from serving if he were elected.

“There are actually not that many constitutional requirements to run for president,” Cominsky said. “There is not an explicit prohibition in the Constitution in respects to having a pending indictment or even being convicted.”

The indictment has not been unsealed, so the specific charge or charges against Trump, who is expected to appear in court Tuesday, are not yet public. But the investigation has focused on Trump’s alleged role in hush-money payments during the 2016 presidential campaign to prevent an adult-film actress from claiming she had a sexual encounter with Trump years earlier. Charges are expected to involve alleged falsification of business records, possibly in connection with a potential campaign finance violation.

The Constitution includes three requirements to run for president: A candidate must be at least 35 years old, have been born in the United States or a territory and resided in the United States for at least 14 years, according to Caroline Fredrickson, a law professor at Georgetown Law School.

Beyond that, there are few restrictions to holding the presidency — or any lower elected office. Among the exceptions: “Engaging in insurrection or rebellion,” a provision that was codified in the 14th Amendment in the post-Civil War Reconstruction Era. A New Mexico judge disqualified a county commissioner from holding office in 2022 because the person had participated in the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

A presidential historian discusses the immediate and long term outcomes behind the indictment of former president Donald Trump. (Video: Michael Cadenhead/The Washington Post)

Some advocates and left-leaning legal observers have similarly argued that Trump — who is leading in most Republican polls — should be disqualified from holding office, alleging that he played a role in inciting that attack.

A special counsel appointed by Attorney General Merrick Garland is investigating Trump’s role in efforts to undo the results of the 2020 election. That investigation is seeking to determine if anyone who was not physically present at the riot at the U.S. Capitol committed crimes. But the federal government rarely charges anyone with incitement, and many legal experts have expressed skepticism that the 14th Amendment could prevent Trump from seeking another term in the White House.

While being convicted of a felony does not prevent people from running for president, it can restrict their right to vote in elections. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, people convicted of certain felonies in 11 states lose their voting rights indefinitely, requiring a governor’s pardon for voting rights to be restored.

Voters in Florida, where Trump resides, decided in 2018 to overturn a voting ban for most felons who have completed their sentences, though Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has since enacted some additional restrictions.

“People are subject to different roles as voter than as candidate,” Fredrickson said. “If Donald Trump were convicted of a felony, he would be barred from voting for himself in certain states.”

Trump is not the first person to be indicted and run for president.

In 1920, Eugene V. Debs ran for president as a Socialist after being found guilty of sedition and imprisoned in the federal penitentiary in Atlanta for speaking out against the draft during World War I. Outside the jail, his supporters handed out photos of Debs in convict denim along with campaign buttons for “Prisoner 9653."

Debs received 913,693 votes, though no electoral college votes.

Former Texas governor Rick Perry competed with Trump and others for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination after a Texas grand jury indicted him on allegations that he abused his power when he vetoed funding to a state agency. Perry has said that the charges — which were dismissed after he dropped out of the presidential race — hurt his campaign.

Analysts say Trump’s indictment and subsequent legal proceedings could affect his candidacy in both positive and negative ways. Some of Trump’s advisers have said legal controversy and drama is favorable terrain for Trump: back in the center of attention as the dominant figure in his party.

A number of his rivals for the Republican nomination — including DeSantis, a presumed but undeclared candidate — have already leaped to his defense. But Trump’s advisers also acknowledged the pitfalls of a indictment and said the campaign had not worked out the logistics of simultaneously mounting a presidential run and facing a criminal trial.

The campaign operation is separate from Trump’s legal team, and the two are not always acting in concert, advisers said. And the candidate is not always taking advice from either team.

The Trump campaign is aiming to position the forthcoming prosecution as the latest politicized “witch hunt” targeting the former president. It has framed the probe as politically motivated by “radical-left Democrats” and said that Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s probe has been funded by liberal philanthropist George Soros, who supported Bragg in his 2020 campaign.

“This is the new normal. The president has been battle-tested,” Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung said. “This operation has been fine-tuned since 2016. Dealing with these types of news cycles, you learn to get good at it. We have a full-spectrum response operation on the campaign that can deal with anything that comes our way.”

More on the Trump NY indictment

The latest: Former president Donald Trump’s criminal trial in New York is scheduled for March 2024. Trump pleaded not guilty to 34 counts stemming from 2016 hush-money payments, the first criminal charges for any former U.S. president.

What is the case about? The investigation involves a $130,000 payment made to Stormy Daniels, an adult-film actress, during the 2016 presidential campaign. It’s one of many ongoing investigations involving Trump. Here are some of the key people in the case and how the indictment process will work.

What are the charges? Trump is charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records. Falsifying business records is a felony in New York when there is an “intent to defraud” that includes an intent to “commit another crime or to aid or conceal” another crime. Here’s the full text of the Trump indictment.

Can Trump still run for president? While it has never been attempted by a candidate from a major party before, Trump is allowed to run for president while under indictment — or even if he is convicted of a crime. Here’s how Trump’s indictment could impact the 2024 election.