The Constitution Doesn’t Prohibit Anyone from Serving as President From Behind Bars.
Donald Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign may be far more unusual than his unconventional campaigns in 2000, 2016 and 2020. This time Trump may campaign nights and weekends while during business hours he sits at a criminal defense table in a courtroom, DCReport cofounder David Cay Johnston writes.
The reason is an 1892 Supreme Court decision known as Lewis and court rules that require defendants in criminal trials to be present during every moment of the proceedings. Neither defendants nor their lawyers can waive the requirement to appear in person.
Trump has already been indicted by the Manhattan District Attorney on 34 felony charges surrounding the hush money payments to Stephanie Clifford, who performs an adult films under the name stormy Daniels.
He’s also facing likely indictment in Fulton County, which overlays Atlanta, and by the Justice Department. Special prosecutor Jack Smith has two grand juries investigating Trump, one over his failed January 6th effort to overthrow our government and the other looking into the national security documents that he did not possess.
Trump has a right to a speedy trial starting as little as 70 days after an indictment, but his pattern throughout his life has been to seek delay after delay after delay.
The problem? Should any judge set a trial date during the campaign he can order Trump to be present. Should trump refuse he can be arrested and held in custody to ensure his appearance each day.
The list of reasons for which defendants may delay trial doesn’t include running for president, according to Johnston, a law lecturer on the faculty at Syracuse University College of Law since 2009.
Johnston also wrote in a piece for The Daily Beast that even if Trump were convicted of a felony and incarcerated, he can serve as president of the United States from behind bars.
Johnston noted that nothing in our Constitution prohibits a serving felon from also being president with one exception: were Trump to be convicted of seditious conspiracy he would become ineligible to hold any government office at any level.
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