Can Trump still run for president despite indictment? Sentenced? How the charges could affect 2024

Donald Trump is the first former president to be prosecuted in US history, indicted in New York for the role he played in paying hush money to a porn star.

The historical charge raises many questions as the country heads into the 2024 presidential election, in which Trump is the leading candidate for the Republican nomination.

Whether the charges will help or hinder Trump politically remains to be seen, although early fundraising numbers suggest the charges have mobilized his base. But legal experts say the indictment does little to change how the former president can proceed in his bid for the nation’s highest office.

“There is nothing legally wrong with a former president being charged with a federal crime, running for office — even being convicted,” said Jessica Levinson, founding director of Loyola Law School’s Public Service Institute. “It really just becomes a practical question, how could you run the country from behind bars if it ever happened?”

Can Trump still run for president despite indictment? Sentenced?

Former President Donald Trump speaks at Mar-a-lago in Palm Beach, Florida on Election Day, November 8, 2022. Trump will begin his 2024 White House bid with early voting visits to two states.

“Absolutely,” said Jessica Levinson, founding director of Loyola Law School’s Public Service Institute.

The constitution sets out the exclusive qualifications to run for the presidency, she said.

There are three requirements:

“That could be because the founders just didn’t envision that we would have people facing indictment and possibly conviction running for the highest office in the country,” she said.

In fact, the former President said so does not plan to drop out of the 2024 race despite his legal troubles.

“I’m not even going to think about leaving,” Trump told reporters ahead of a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference in March.

“Probably it will improve my numbers.”

Why was Trump impeached?

The charges against Trump have not been made public. But the New York grand jury was Investigations against the former President for a $130,000 payment he made just before the 2016 election to silence adult film star Stormy Daniels over a past affair.

Trump has denied the affair and any wrongdoing, calling the investigation a politically motivated “witch hunt” and urging his supporters to protest his treatment. Trump’s attorney Joseph Tacopina called the charges a “political prosecution” and said Trump’s team will fight them in court.

How does a grand jury work?

Grand juries decide whether a prosecutor’s evidence constitutes probable cause for indictment Legal Information Institute of Cornell Law School.

Grand juries, usually composed of 16 to 23 people, meet privately as investigative bodies independent of a prosecutor or judge. A district attorney shows the grand jury evidence and asks the jury to consider specific charges, David Weinstein, a former federal and prosecutor, told USA TODAY.

Then the jury secretly votes on whether there is enough evidence to charge someone with a crime. If the majority of the jury believes a person has committed a crime, they come back with an indictment. If this is not the case, the person does not have to file a criminal complaint and there is no trial.

A… to be Grand Jurors in New York, where Trump has been impeached, an individual must be a US citizen, at least 18 years of age, a resident of the district to which they are drafted, and be able to understand and communicate in English. A person cannot have a criminal record.

Which law is Trump accused of?

The exact charges against Trump are still unknown. But the grand jury investigation gives an insight into the law or laws that the former President may have broken.

Public information from witnesses interviewed by prosecutors and testifying before the grand jury suggests the focus of the investigation is not far removed from the payment Trump made to Daniels ahead of his 2016 campaign.

The hush money payment could be used to build a case for falsifying business records and violating the Campaign Finance Act.

“The crime here appears to be the falsification of business records to disguise the hush-hush payments by misrepresenting them as legal fees,” said Barbara McQuade, a former US attorney and now a law professor at the University of Michigan. “The crime becomes a crime when it covers up another crime.”

Is hush money legal?

A hush money payment itself is not illegal according to Levinson and McQuade.

“In this case, it appears that Stormy Daniels sold the rights to her story about an alleged affair with Trump to the National Enquirer and gave it exclusive rights to print it,” McQuade said. “The National Enquirer chose never to print the story. As long as Daniels is paid, there is no crime in this contractual arrangement.”

How will Trump’s election affect the 2024 presidential race?

Legally not much. But politically it could be a different story.

Trump’s actual and potential Republican rivals of 2024 have walked a fine line so far, criticizing the Manhattan DA for indicting Trump while weighing a run against the former president.

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who announced in February that she was running for president, said in an interview with Fox News that Bragg’s case is about “political issues” and that he’s trying to address the to “avenge” the former President. Former Vice President Mike Pence, who is weighing a presidential bid, called the charges “unprecedented.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has not yet submitted a 2024 presidential bid but is expected to be Trump’s main rival, said in a statement on Twitter that the indictment was “un-American” and that Florida would not help Trump with an extradition request.

Among Trump’s own base, it’s possible an indictment could bolster support for the former president. After predicting his likely indictment earlier this month, he raised more than $1.5 million in fundraising funds. according to Fox News.

“He’s been saying for years that he’s the victim of a political witch hunt, and this is just further proof that he can use that argument,” Levinson said. “But if he gets the nomination and he has to appeal to a much broader constituency, I think that’s a problem.”

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Can Trump run for president if he’s impeached? How the NY Fall Affects 2024

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