Can Trump Still Be President If Convicted?


The 2024 presidential election has taken an unexpected turn with Donald Trump’s New York guilty verdict.

Trump is set to be sentenced on July 11, opening the door to some unprecedented scenarios. Can Trump become president with a felony conviction before the election? What if he wins while serving time in prison? Can he pardon himself once he’s in the White House?

On the first, and perhaps most critical, question, the answer is yes.

“Article 1 of the Constitution specifies three requirements for becoming president. You must be 35 years old, a natural-born citizen, and a resident within the U.S. for 14 years,” explained Hans von Spakovsky, a legal scholar from the Heritage Foundation. “A felony conviction does not disqualify you from the presidency.”

Although the issue of whether voters would elect someone with a criminal record is another matter, a further legal question arises about what happens if Trump were elected while serving a prison sentence.

Georgia State University law professor Anthony Michael Kreis noted that if Trump wins, New York officials would have to release him to serve in the Oval Office — with a stipulation.

“If in the state’s custody and [Trump won the election], New York officials would have to release him,” Kreis stated. “But he would still need to serve his sentence after his presidential term concludes.”

Kreis added that this scenario is likely to remain hypothetical.

“For a first-time nonviolent offender in New York, lengthy incarceration is highly unlikely,” he said. “And it’s almost impossible for a jury in one of the two federal cases to deliberate before Election Day.”

Despite these low odds, Secret Service agents have already met with New York corrections officers to prepare for this possibility, according to CBS News. The Truth Voices has reached out to the Secret Service for comment.

Legal scholars have long debated whether a president can issue a pardon to himself.

Most agree that a president cannot pardon himself for state crimes but might be able to do so for federal offenses. Even with a self-pardon, this would not aid Trump in his New York and Georgia cases, meaning he would remain a convicted felon in those states after a guilty verdict, though it would not bar him from serving as president.

Another question is whether Trump can vote for himself with a conviction, given that Florida does not allow felons to vote. According to von Spakovsky, the answer is technically no, but it could easily be changed by Florida’s GOP-majority legislature.

“The state legislature could pass a special bill allowing [Trump] to vote after a conviction,” he said. “The decision on whether a convicted felon can vote lies entirely with state legislatures under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”

Due to the Constitution’s minimal requirements for the presidency, von Spakovsky believes Trump could technically be elected and serve as president from prison.

“If elected, Trump could be inaugurated and fulfill presidential duties even from a prison cell,” he said. “The only way he could be removed from office is via impeachment.”

So, while many Democrats hope Trump’s New York conviction will harm him politically, legally, the trial outcome does not impede his ability to serve if he wins.

Haisten Willis
Haisten Willis
White House Reporter. Before moving to D.C., Haisten was an Atlanta-based freelance journalist, writing for the Washington Post, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and U.S. News & World Report, among other outlets. From 2020 to 2022, he was the national Freedom of Information Committee chairman at the Society of Professional Journalists.

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