Trump Investigation: A Hindrance To His 2024 Candidacy?


Trump Investigation: A Hindrance To His 2024 Candidacy?

The dramatic FBI raid on Donald Trump’s Florida residence on Monday signalled a rapid increase in the number of inquiries against the former President, and it raised new legal issues that, in theory, may alter the course of the American presidency.

That’s because some have said that if the probe, which seems to be connected to his handling of secret presidential records, resulted in a conviction, Mr Trump may be legally prohibited from running for office again.

So, let’s take a closer look at this. According to an FBI search, how far along are the investigations against Mr. Trump, and might they really prevent him from running in 2024?

Former Justice Department prosecutor Joseph Moreno said that the sensitive nature of the search at Mr Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach indicates that the investigation is headed toward possible charges.

“Someone at the FBI and a federal prosecutor believe there’s a criminal violation of the Presidential Records Act [which requires presidents to transfer all of their documents and emails to the National Archives] or other acts that govern classified documents, and that’s why they moved forward,” says Mr Moreno.

One minor criminal statute, Section 2071 of Title 18 of the United States Code, has received considerable attention in the aftermath of the search and is the crucial factor that pertains to the election in 2024.

This states that anyone with custody of government documents who “wilfully and unlawfully conceals, removes, mutilates, obliterates or destroys… any record, proceeding, map, book, paper, document, or other things, filed or deposited … in any public office” can be fined or imprisoned for up to three years.

It is crucial to note that it states anybody found guilty of violating that legislation would “be disqualified from holding” a federal office. For this reason, some people are saying that a conviction may all but put a stop to Mr Trump’s rumoured chances of winning the White House again.

“That’s a real law, and if Donald Trump violated that law … that has real penalties, including the fact that he may never be able to serve in federal office ever again,” presidential historian Michael Beschloss told MSNBC.

The only limitations on presidential eligibility, according to some legal experts, are citizenship, residence, and age. As a result, they swiftly asserted that the rule was unlikely to be applied or withstand any form of review.

“The law would not pass muster under any sort of constitutional review,” says Brian Kalt, a constitutional law professor at the University of Michigan.

Additionally, legal, and constitutional authorities informed the BBC that there is no overarching rule preventing convicted felons from running for president. The most recent example is George W. Bush, who was convicted of driving under the influence yet went on to spend two terms in office.

The US Constitution establishes the requirements for who is eligible to run for President. The criteria for qualifying are straightforward: the applicant must be at least 35 years old and a US citizen for at least 14 years.

There is an obvious conflict between the Constitution, which establishes precise criteria for who is qualified to run for President and makes no mention of criminal convictions, and federal legislation that stipulates that anybody convicted under the above law should be excluded from holding office.

“The fundamental principle of constitutional law is that the Constitution is supreme, and any law that conflicts with the Constitution is void,” adds Mr Kalt.

The US Constitution does not provide Congress with the authority to exclude a candidate from holding office based on convictions obtained under regular criminal law, notwithstanding suggestions to this effect from a number of legal experts.

“The only way he could be barred from running is if he were barred by Congress [using impeachment powers], but that would be very unusual,” says Mr Moreno, the former justice department prosecutor.

According to some analysts, prosecutors would petition the conservative-dominated Supreme Court to take the eligibility issue into consideration if Mr Trump were to be prosecuted and found guilty under Section 2071. However, according to Prof. Kalt, it is doubtful that the previous President would be removed from office in such a situation.

“If I were advising Mr Trump, I would say you should not worry about this. You should be fine,” says Mr Kalt.

Although legal experts think it’s unlikely that Mr Trump would be prevented from running for office under Section 2071, any effort to do so may nevertheless have a significant influence on his chances of winning the election and how the public views him.

Marc E Elias, a leading Democratic party elections lawyer, referred to this in a tweet earlier. “I recognise the legal challenge that application of this law to a president would garner,” he wrote.

“But the idea that a candidate would have to litigate this during a campaign is in my view a blockbuster in American politics.”

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