Trump’s New York felony conviction can’t stop him from becoming president

Former President Trump Felony conviction in New York Thursday on 34 counts of falsifying business records related to a hush money payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels can’t stop her from become president if voters return him to power, legal experts seem to agree.

The Constitution imposes very few prerequisites for the presidency: a candidate must be at least 35 years old, a natural-born citizen, and a resident of the United States for at least 14 years. It says nothing about the impact of a felony conviction on a president’s ability to hold office.

“The short answer is yes, there is no constitutional impediment,” said Corey Brettschneider, a lawyer and political science professor at Brown University and author of “The Presidents and the People.” “The Constitution sets out some specific requirements regarding what is required… but there is nothing explicitly in the Constitution regarding being convicted of a crime as a disqualification.

“It’s widely accepted that the qualifications listed in the Constitution are exclusive, meaning we can’t add anything to those qualifications,” said Derek Muller, an election law professor at the University of Notre Dame. He added: “Whether or not you have been convicted of a crime is irrelevant for purposes of qualification. »

Jessica Levinson, a constitutional law professor at Loyola University and a CBS News contributor, clearly stated, “The Constitution does not prohibit serving as president if you are a convicted felon. »

What about the 14th Amendment?

Some states attempted to disqualify Trump under the insurrection clause of the 14th Amendment following the January attacks. 6, 2021, Assault on the US Capitol.

Last December, the Colorado Supreme Court allowed Trump will be barred from the primary vote due to 14th Amendment concerns stemming from his conduct around January 14. 6. According to the court, the insurrection clause of the amendment prohibits insurrectionists who have already taken an oath to support the Constitution from holding public office.

But the The United States Supreme Court overturned the decision In March, it was found that Trump should be put back on the ballot because only Congress can enforce the insurance clause. The high court’s decision resolved challenges to Trump’s eligibility for office that voters in several other states had contested.

“In the absence of a [new] “The law that provides for this disqualification, it’s not an obstacle,” Brettschneider said.

The Constitution gives Congress the power to enact laws that would enforce the 3rd section of the 14th Amendment, Brettschneider explained.

What if Trump was sentenced to prison?

His sentence cannot include prison timebut in practice, the implications of a sentence could be more complex if Trump becomes president.

“You could be convicted of a crime and still get no jail time, right?” » said Müller. “You might just get fined; you could get probation. »

But there is no law against running for president and winning an election while in prison – or serving as president from prison.

If he is sentenced to prison and wins the election, Trump’s lawyers could argue that sitting presidents cannot be imprisoned, just as Trump has argued that sitting presidents cannot be indicted.

“One could argue that there is something inherent in the office of president that suggests that states cannot incarcerate people holding federal office or detain those federal officers,” Muller said. “There is a little precedent for this. In some old cases going back 200 years, there have been disputes over states trying to conduct cases involving federal officers to remove them from office, and the Supreme Court made it clear that states had no authority to do so.

What about the 25th Amendment?

The 25th Amendment could be a factor, Muller and Levinson said.

Section 3 of the 25th Amendment states that “whenever the Vice President and a majority of the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and to the President due to the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is incapable of discharging the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office of Acting President.

It could be argued that a president behind bars is incapable of carrying out his duties, Muller said. Whether a convicted president serving time behind bars could see his Cabinet confirmed could depend largely on the outcome of the Senate elections, said Brandon Johnson, an assistant professor at the Nebraska College of Law, who wrote an essay in the Harvard Law Review last year on the subject. subject of a “chief convict”. And if Trump were able to confirm a cabinet, those members would likely be loyal to him and unwilling to supplant him.

The 25th Amendment also states that “any other body which Congress may by law provide” could initiate the process to pass presidential powers to the vice president, Johnson wrote.

“I think the Congressional path will also be doomed to failure, unless there is a significant change in the 2024 elections, because Congress would have to agree to create this body to begin with, to consider the president’s fitness to carry out his duties,” Johnson said. CBS News.

Johnson argues that the most natural reading of the 25th Amendment seems to require the cooperation of the vice president.

“But if the acquiescence of the vice president is required, then the creation of a congressional body to declare the president incapable of exercising his duties could face the same obstacles,” Johnson wrote.

Could Trump forgive himself for his conviction in New York?

Trump, if he becomes president, cannot forgive himself for his conviction in New York, because it is a state conviction rather than a federal one. Presidents are only empowered to pardon federal crimes.

Trump faces three other criminal cases — a state indictment in Georgia for alleged attempts to overturn the election; a federal indictment in Florida for his handling of classified documents; and a federal indictment in Washington, D.C., for alleged attempts to overturn the presidential election.

-Melissa Quinn contributed to this report.

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