Former President Donald Trump appears to be at the center of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s grand jury investigation into a secret payment made to a porn star by Mr Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen in 2016.
The investigation has entered a new phase in recent weeks, and Mr. Bragg’s office has now contacted the president’s lawyers to offer the possibility of voluntary testimony, a sign multiple sources close to the investigation said New York Times means that an indictment or multiple indictments are probably being prepared. Mr. Trump himself predicted on March 18 that he would be arrested next week.
“FAR LEADING REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE AND FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES WILL BE ARREST TUESDAY NEXT WEEK. PROTEST, GIVE BACK OUR NATION!” Mr. Trump posted on Truth Social an angry message in all caps.
If Mr. Trump is indeed charged with a crime, it would be the first time an investigation into his inner circle (of which there have been several, most famously resulting in multiple indictments of figures connected to the 2016 campaign) has actually spilled over. blood from the president himself.
The Justice Department’s protocol against indicting a sitting president appears to chill any agency’s ability to do so while he’s in office, but the president’s loss in 2020 opened the door to a prosecution like the 2016 Stormy Daniels case , as well as an investigation into the Jan. 6 attack and Mr. Trump’s efforts to overturn the election.
This second investigation continues with the distinct possibility of potential indictments for both Mr. Trump and members of his legal team. And along with the Bragg investigation, it raises the question: What happens to the 2024 race and Donald Trump’s ability to run if he faces criminal charges?
The short answer is, not much. There are no restrictions in the US Constitution that prevent anyone charged with or convicted of a crime, or even currently serving a sentence, from running for or winning the office of President. Even if he is tried and convicted in one of the so-called “speedy trials” he has repeatedly hailed the Chinese government for working on drug-related crimes, Mr Trump could still lead his entire presidency. campaign from a prison cell.
What’s much less clear is what would happen if he were to win in that scenario. Just as there are no restrictions in the Constitution on a person running for office while indicted, there is no explanation of what should happen in the event that they win. There is nothing in the document that would automatically give Mr. Trump a reprieve from prison, except for the possibility that any charges brought by federal authorities, if still pending at the time Mr. Trump takes office for a second time, would have been dropped due to the Justice Department’s refusal to prosecute a sitting president.
State-level charges like those brought by Mr. Bragg are far more complex and would fall outside Mr. Trump’s pardon power if they result in a conviction.
If the conviction on the state charges coincides with Trump’s election victory, it will likely lead to a massive legal battle to determine whether there was a way for the former president to escape the conviction. If Mr. Trump were unable to avoid that outcome, it would almost certainly lead to his impeachment or removal through the 25th Amendment, which allows the cabinet to remove a president who is unable to carry out his duties. There are many duties and pitfalls of the presidency that would simply be impossible to manage or perform from a prison cell, viewing classified material is just one.
Any potential conviction of Mr. Trump is still a long way off and little more than a remote possibility. But the talk he began with his bid for the presidency, despite multiple criminal investigations, has already pushed parts of the theoretical US constitutional law into a much more real place than many pundits thought they would see.