Donald Trump

Yes, Donald Trump can still be president as a convicted felon

Author: Editors Desk Source: Politico
May 31, 2024 at 06:50
Illustration by Claudine Hellmuth/POLITICO (source images via AP, Getty and iStock)
Illustration by Claudine Hellmuth/POLITICO (source images via AP, Getty and iStock)

He’s not the first convicted criminal to run for office.

For the first time in history, a presumptive presidential nominee from one of the two major U.S. political parties is a convicted felon.

But does Donald Trump’s conviction in the Manhattan hush money case prevent him from running for — and potentially serving — as president? Nope.

As a candidate for federal office, Trump is restricted only by requirements in the U.S. Constitution. Those requirements are straightforward: The president must be at least 35 years old, must be a natural-born U.S. citizen and must have lived in the U.S. for at least 14 years. There’s nothing on criminal convictions.



Now, if Trump is sentenced to prison and also wins the presidency, that would pose obvious practical complications. It’s implausible he could run the country from a cell, and some legal experts say the resulting constitutional crisis would require that his sentence be suspended so that he could fulfill his duties as the nation’s chief executive. It may be a few weeks before the judge in the hush money case delivers Trump’s sentence, which could span up to four years behind bars — or no time at all.

While Trump will be the first felon candidate who could feasibly win enough votes to capture the presidency, he’s far from the first criminal to run for the office.

Most famously, Socialist Party nominee Eugene V. Debs ran for president in 1920 from a prison cell while serving a 10-year federal sentence for imploring his supporters to resist the World War 1 draft. He captured three percent of the vote.



Trump’s no Socialist, but there are some similarities between the two candidates. Perhaps most notably, both Trump and Debs used their legal issues as talking points to fire up their base.

Debs supporters wore lapel buttons that advertised their preferred candidate as “Convict No. 9653.”

Trump has made his four indictments a focal point for his 2024 candidacy, even releasing his Georgia mugshot in a defiant tweet. At his Manhattan trial, Trump gave campaign speeches daily from the hallway outside the courtroom — delivered from a pen of metal barricades erected by court officers.

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