Former President Donald Trump, the leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, is facing a litany of criminal charges that could see him spend the rest of his life in prison.
While such legal woes would typically spell the end of any major political campaign, President Trump is no ordinary politician. His status as a former president and the most successful populist politician in modern history has given him an almost cult-like status among the conservative grassroots that is proving nearly impossible to break.
Yet should he prevail in the race for the nomination, his legal problems could potentially create an unprecedented situation in which a major party’s nominee (and perhaps the democratically elected president) will spend the rest of his life behind bars.
The question many of us are asking, therefore, is what is going to happen?
Saul Anuzis, a former chairman of the Michigan Republican Party who ran for chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC) in 2012, told The Epoch Times that if President Trump were imprisoned before the convention, the RNC would likely search for an alternative nominee.
“No one believes Trump will be in prison, but if that were to happen I would almost guarantee another nominee,” said Mr. Anuzis. “RNC rules are set on the first day of the convention and could easily make all delegates ‘unbound,’ freeing them up to select another nominee.”
“If Trump really were imprisoned, there is no one to strong-arm delegates on his behalf,” he continued. “There are too many credible alternatives that could win to believe that would happen.”
Marina Medvin, a criminal attorney and columnist at Townhall, told The Epoch Times that constitutionally speaking there are no barriers to President Trump running a successful campaign from prison, although if he won he would be unable to carry out the job effectively.
“If he is incarcerated in the middle of a campaign he simply can’t campaign in person," said Ms. Medvin. "But he’s not doing much in-person campaigning right now anyway. I’m not sure that it would affect him one way or another, quite honestly.”
“If Trump is incarcerated—in jail—there is technically nothing in the law that stops him from being president because no law says that a president has to be a free man, that a president cannot be incarcerated. Nothing in this example precludes his presidency.”
'Needlessly Drag Him Through the Mud'Alex Haberbush, president of the Lex Rex Institute, a legal and public outreach organization focused on promoting constitutional law, told The Epoch Times that while President Trump will remain eligible to run, the legal establishment does not seriously intend to put him behind bars.
“To appear on the ballot as the Republican nominee, Trump must meet the ballot requirements for each state, most (if not all) of which automatically permit the Republican nominee to appear, so there is no inherent legal barrier to him running as the nominee,” Mr. Haberbush explained.
“Trump is certainly qualified to hold office, even if he is convicted and even if he is imprisoned. How this would actually work, practically speaking, is another matter entirely. And the truth is that no one knows the answer to that question.”
However, Mr. Haberbush also argued that while President Trump's imprisonment would inevitably provoke a constitutional crisis, the intense logistics required make it a highly unlikely scenario.
“The idea of imprisoning Trump has never been seriously on the table,” he continued. “The sheer expense and logistics of keeping someone imprisoned with a full Secret Service detail—something he would get whether or not he ever ran for president again—makes it a possibility well outside any serious consideration. That’s not the goal. The goal is to waste Trump’s time, keep him off the campaign trail, and needlessly drag him through the mud.”
Some analysts similarly point out that owing to the laborious nature of the legal system, President Trump is unlikely to have been convicted of any crime by November 2024.
Dan Backer, an experienced political lawyer who has served as counsel to 100 campaigns and candidates, PACs, and organizations, told The Epoch Times that each individual trial will take months to reach a satisfactory conclusion.
“There is almost no likelihood a trial will be finished before the election,” Mr. Backer said. “The massive volume of pre-trial motions alone will take a great deal of time to wade through. And while the judges are inconsiderate as to his campaigning needs—four simultaneous prosecutions will force accommodation as to scheduling.”
“Meanwhile, the trial alone will take months. Any loss by Trump will surely be appealed as well. The wheels of justice move slowly, like a snail on a hot day.”
As President Trump’s march toward the nomination appears increasingly inevitable, his opponents must be asking what, if anything, they can do to stop him.
Some of his critics, including fellow Republican presidential candidate Asa Hutchinson, have suggested he should be ineligible to run on grounds of violating the 14th Amendment because of his role in the Capitol breach on Jan. 6, 2021. Although the plan may appear far-fetched, progressive legal groups are already filing lawsuits in several states with a view to having President Trump removed from the ballot.
The truth of the matter regarding the possibility of President Trump returning to the White House is that no one really knows what will happen. However improbable it may seem, President Trump has confounded his critics ever since he came down the escalator to announce his presidential campaign at Trump Tower in June 2015. The only thing that we know for sure is that it is bound to be interesting.