What happens if former President Trump is convicted of any crime?
Aug 17, 2023, 6:00 AM
(AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)
What will happen if former President Donald Trump is convicted before the election in any of the four criminal proceedings pending against him… and he is re-elected president? What happens if the proceedings are still pending, and he is re-elected?
“No one really knows the answer to these questions,” KSL Legal Analyst Greg Skordas said. “This is all a matter of first impression.”
Break it down
There are two state cases and two federal cases pending against the former President. The two federal cases are brought in two different jurisdictions – Florida for the Mar-a-Lago documents case and Washington, D.C. for the January 6th case.
The two state cases are also brought in two different jurisdictions. New York for the hush money case and, most recently, Georgia for the racketeering charges connected to election fraud.
What if President Trump is convicted?
“He could certainly keep running,” explained FiveThirtyEight Senior Writer Amelia Thomson-Deveaux. “The constitution doesn’t say anything about a criminal record or a prison sentence standing in the way. A person just has to be 35 years old, a natural-born citizen and a resident of the U.S. for 14 years.”
“Ironically, he might not be able to vote in his home state of Florida if he’s convicted of a felony, but he could certainly keep running,” Thomson-Deveaux added.
“When he filed to run, and even today, he had not been convicted of anything,” said Skordas. “In America, a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty, so these charges do not currently disqualify him from running.”
What if the cases are still pending and he wins?
“This is the million-dollar question,” Thomason-Deveaux said. “This is where we’re getting into uncharted territory. It depends on whether we’re talking about the federal or state cases.”
For the federal cases, if the former president wins the election, he could theoretically try to get the cases dismissed.
“He can replace the current Justice Department Chief [Merrick Garland], and he almost certainly will,” Skordas explained. “He’s going to have a harder time replacing a Special Counsel who, by definition, isn’t beholding to the Justice Department.”
The goal would be to get a friendlier prosecutor who may dismiss the federal charges.
But it’s different for the state cases. He can’t appoint the Georgia district attorneys or influence their appointment.
“There would probably be a legal case to decide if the case could continue against him while he is in office,” Thomson-Deveaux predicted. “The court will be faced with a genuinely complicated and novel question.”
It would be a case about the case. Clear as mud.
Could President Trump be incarcerated if convicted?
Former President Trump will certainly argue that he should be released on appeal. In light of the fact that he is currently the runaway frontrunner for the Republican nomination and is recognized all over the world, no court would consider him a flight risk.
But there is no guarantee. That’s a decision that the judge gets to make.
Here’s the tough one.
“If he’s convicted and sentenced to more than five years in Georgia, he’s actually not eligible for release on appeal,” Thomson-Deveaux explained. “The racketeering law he and the other defendants are charged under in the Georgia case has a minimum five years sentence if he is convicted.”
Imagine if he is convicted in Georgia, then wins the election. Is it possible he would be sworn in from a Georgia prison? It’s too much to think about. Our heads might explode.
A few things are certain
Skordas explained that there are a few things we can count on:
- Former President Trump will do everything he can to stall all of these cases until after the election so that he will be in a much better position to bring pressure on all four cases to be dismissed.
- He continues to raise tons of money and increase his lead in the Republican presidential polls, every time he’s indicted.
- Ultimately, Congress or the Supreme Court may have to weigh in to decide which, how much of and when all of these issues are resolved.