Donald Trump has said he would “never drop out” of next year’s presidential race, even if he is convicted on criminal charges.
In his first major interview since being arrested and charged in New York, the former US President told Fox News that nothing would prevent him from running. “I’d never drop out,” he said. “It’s not my thing. I wouldn’t do it.”
The Republican’s comments came just a week after he pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts at Manhattan Criminal Courthouse - becoming the first current or former US President to ever be charged with a crime. Trump’s charges were for falsifying business records, in connection with a scheme that directed hush money payments to two women during the final days of his presidential campaign in 2016.
Whilst announcing the indictment, prosecutors alleged that the payments amounted to a conspiracy to influence the election - arguing that Trump had employed a “catch and kill” scheme to “identify, purchase, and bury negative information”. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg claimed he had done this with hopes of “boosting his electoral prospects”.
If Trump is found guilty, he could face a maximum of four years in prison for just one charge of falsifying records.
What makes the situation even more complicated is that the former President is currently in the process of trying to make a major political comeback. Trump launched his campaign to become the presidential nominee for the Republican Party in November 2022, shortly after the US midterm elections.
He has now confirmed, as many expected, that he will press ahead with the campaign despite his indictment, with some political experts predicting that the criminal charges will only serve to embolden his supporters. But can he actually run, and serve, as President? Here’s everything you need to know.
Can a candidate run for President if they are charged with a crime or in jail?
Dr Colin Provost, associate professor of public policy at University College London, explained the extraordinary situation the former president currently finds himself in. He said: "Trump is unique in that few American presidents have had as many legal troubles swirling around them as he does. Thus, most presidents are unlikely to find themselves in similar situations."
There is only one rule on qualifications for the presidency in the US Constitution. Article 2 states that the President must be at least 35-years-old, a US resident for at least 14 years and a natural born citizen, meaning that they are a US citizen by birth.
There are no rules within the US Constitution which prohibit a person from running for President if they have ever been charged with or found guilty of a crime.
Can a US President govern if they go to jail?
There is also no rule against the winning candidate from governing as President in the same situation. This includes if they are serving time in jail or prison for any such offence.
Therefore, we could potentially see the extraordinary situation where Trump continues to campaign to be the Republican nominee for the 2024 election and subsequently the presidency while he is indicted - or even behind bars. As no constitutional rule has been written on this, in the situation Trump wins the nomination and the 2024 presidential election, he could in theory govern from prison.
But, as Dr Provost explains, it might not be as cut and dry as looking at the constitutional rules around the matter.
"The Department of Justice has a policy of not indicting a sitting president, but they have never before faced the question of what happens to someone elected president who has also been charged with or convicted of a crime. It would be entirely new legal ground and it’s unclear what the result would be at this point."
Will Trump actually still run for President?
Trump has claimed he will still go ahead with running for President - a claim that matches what he and his allies have said throughout the investigation. Actually, many have argued that the charges against Trump could bolster his campaign for re-election, particularly given his previously touted false claims that the 2020 presidential election was “stolen” by the Democrats.
Others however argue that some Americans would be less enthusiastic about the idea of having someone convicted of a crime as a President, meaning things are still up in the air.
Dr Provost said: “Trump and some other conservatives are likely to call for protests and anything that may disrupt the legal proceedings, but it’s unclear what sort of turnout he may get on this front. Perceptions of Trump may improve, as he attempts to portray himself as a victim of government persecution, but once again it’s unclear how successful such a strategy would be at this point.
“Additionally, it’s unclear how the legal proceedings will affect Trump’s presidential campaign. If the legal proceedings turn into a lengthy trial, it will most likely have a negative effect on Trump’s ability to campaign around the country.”
Trump faces competition against Florida governor Ron DeSantis to become the Republican nominee for 2024. The pair have butted heads throughout the process, with DeSantis offering moderate Republicans a counter candidate to Trump. However, national polls suggest that the race to become the Republican candidate is close between the two, making Trump’s candidacy while indicted a real possibility.
A new poll conducted by Yahoo News and YouGov, the first after the indictment was confirmed, even suggests that Trump has a 26-point lead on DeSantis to win the Republican nomination. However, the same poll also shows that the idea of having a convicted President is unappealing to most Americans, with 52% of respondents agreeing.
Prior to appearing in court, Trump claimed that the case against him is a politically motivated “WITCH HUNT”. Later, speaking at his home in Mar-a-Lago in Florida, Trump told reporters: “I never thought anything like this could happen in America. I never thought it could happen. The only crime that I have committed is to fearlessly defend our nation from those who seek to destroy it.”
Previously, when the news of his indictment broke, Trump took to his social media platform Truth Social to respond. Misspelling the word ‘indicted’, the 76-year-old said: “These Thugs and Radical Left Monsters have just INDICATED the 45th President of the United States of America, and the leading Republican Candidate, by far, for the 2024 Nomination for President.
“THIS IS AN ATTACK ON OUR COUNTRY THE LIKES OF WHICH HAS NEVER BEEN SEEN BEFORE. IT IS LIKEWISE A CONTINUING ATTACK ON OUR ONCE FREE AND FAIR ELECTIONS. THE USA IS NOW A THIRD WORLD NATION, A NATION IN SERIOUS DECLINE. SO SAD!”