Experts say Trump could still be elected president despite indictment

Former President donald trump, who was indicted by the Manhattan District Attorney Thursday, is still eligible for president — even if convicted — experts tell ABC News. But there are practical reasons that could make it a challenge, experts say.

Trump recently said at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference he would “absolutely” stay in the running for the President, even if he were to be criminally indicted.

“I wouldn’t even think about leaving,” Trump told reporters ahead of his speech on Saturday. “Probably it will improve my numbers.”

MORE: Trump will stay in contention even if impeached, tells CPAC crowd ‘I am your vengeance’

Trump has denied wrongdoing and called the investigation part of a “witch hunt” against him.

The US Constitution does not list lack of a criminal record as a qualification for the presidency. It states that only natural citizens who are at least 35 years old and have been residents of the United States for 14 years can run for president.

Constitutional experts also told ABC News that previous Supreme Court rulings said Congress could not add qualifications to the office of president. In addition, a state cannot prohibit accused or convicted felons from running for federal office.

“Some people are surprised to learn that there is no constitutional court for a criminal running for president, but there is no such court,” said Kate Shaw, a legal analyst at ABC News and a professor at the Cardozo School of Law.

PHOTO: Former President Donald Trump attends the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) March 4, 2023 in National Harbor, Maryland. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

“Because of the 22nd amendment, the person cannot have been elected president twice before,” Shaw said. “But there is nothing in the Constitution that precludes persons convicted of crimes from running for or serving as president.”

Shaw said that while the incarceration “would likely make campaigning difficult, if not impossible,” the impediment is a “practical problem, not a legal one.”

James Sampler, a professor of constitutional law at Hofstra University, told ABC News that the constitution sets the minimum requirements but leaves the rest to voters.

“It depends on the wisdom of the people to decide if a person is unfit for office,” Sampler said. “So the most basic obstacle President Trump faces in running for office in 2024 is the obstacle everyone has, but he has it in a different and more pronounced way — proving to voters that individuals deserve the office .”

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If Trump were charged or convicted and barred by law from leaving the country, Sampler said, it would effectively limit his ability to tour the country and campaign — but it wouldn’t prevent him from running.

Sampler also pointed out an irony of the voting system, in which many states bar convicted felons from voting. According to the advocacy group The Sentencing Project, 48 states have laws prohibiting those with criminal convictions from voting.

“It is a sad day for a country that supposedly values ​​democratic participation and equality that a person convicted of a crime can be banned from participating in our democracy even as a voter, but a president convicted of a crime still allows it is,” he said.

Jessica Levinson, professor of suffrage at Loyola Law School, agreed.

“You could have a situation where the President of the United States is not disqualified to be President … but cannot vote for himself,” Levinson told ABC News.

“The interesting thing about the qualifications, like you have to be born here, you have to live here for a period of time…all of that kind of gives you the idea that we want you to stay loyal to our country,” Levinsson said. “But you could potentially be convicted of crimes against our country and still become president.”

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