The endless legal problems surrounding former President Donald Trump are being put on hold in his 2024 presidential campaign.
Trump himself, in his speech announcing his candidacy on Tuesday, spoke of the “impact” of the “judicial system,” as he objected to the investigation carried out by the FBI his Florida home as part of a criminal investigation. to mishandling documents from his White House.
No matter what political moves Trump makes that hurt his campaign or rally his supporters, the investigations will affect him — including federal investigations. of the state and the government in the 2020 general elections – there may be no legal hurdle for his candidacy.
Failure to do so will disqualify him from the election, legal experts say.
“There may be job barriers, there may be fundraising barriers, but that’s a political question, not a legal one,” said Derek Muller, an election law professor at the University of Iowa College of Law.
On the other hand, Trump’s position as president does not give him additional legal protections in investigations. But it creates a political environment and a more difficult task for investigators to navigate.
This question has not been fully resolved by the courts, but the general consensus is that the presumption or presumption is that the law cannot prevent Trump from being elected.
Not only have convicted felons run for federal office in the past, but at least one has run for president from prison: Eugene Debs, an influential socialist candidate for the White House at the beginning of the 20th century, the president received more than 900,000 votes in 1920. He fled while being arrested on espionage charges.
The reason Trump is believed to not be barred from returning to the White House is because of the mainstream legal argument that the Constitution alone sets standards that candidates must meet to become president.
“It is widely accepted that the qualifications to be president are in the Constitution,” Muller said. “And simply being accused of a felony is not one of them, and the states and Congress cannot add to those qualifications.”
So many legal experts believe that the courts will not support the requests of the states to block their elections for presidential candidates who refuse to submit their tax returns, as Trump refused to do. .
But if Trump is indicted on any of the laws that federal investigators are investigating in the Mar-a-Lago documents, it could be an even bigger test of the legal question.
One of the laws involved in the Justice Department’s Mar-a-Lago investigation, a federal law against withholding or removing government records, said the those found guilty “will lose their office and be disqualified from holding any office under the United States. .”
“It presents the strongest case for the legitimacy of repeal that one can, because of two, its purposes – national security – and because it was so clearly and clearly stated by the Congress,” said Paul Rosenzweig, a former US Department of Homeland Security official who also worked on the Whitewater investigation of President Bill Clinton. “I don’t think it will last.”
While Trump was in the White House, he made several arguments — sometimes successful, sometimes not — that his status as president afforded him certain legal protections.
But those protections don’t apply to him now that he’s announced his bid to retake the White House. The rest of the fight is about what he did while he was still president, but there is no special legal instrument to protect what he does or says as an ordinary candidate.
“There is no mandate or anything attached right now as a candidate,” Muller said.
The biggest advantage that being a presidential candidate gives Trump is the promise of delay: if he can drag out the legislative process long enough to not decide if he is re-elected, then he can using the president as a shield. .
Trump’s announcement that he was running for president did not create a legal barrier for criminal investigators investigating wrongdoing by him or his associates. But Trump’s candidacy could challenge other political ideas with action.
As CNN previously reported, the Justice Department is weighing in on the weeks leading up to Trump’s announcement on whether to appoint a special counsel. DOJ officials have debated whether doing so could insulate the agency from accusations that the investigations are a political attack on President Joe Biden’s 2024 opponent.
Attorney General Merrick Garland declined to answer a CNN question about the possibility in March, insisting that the agency “does not shy away from cases that are controversial, sensitive or political .”
As of early this month, no decision had been made.
Regardless of where Garland stands on the special counsel question, it will undoubtedly increase Trump’s authority over the investigation. The DOJ will be cautious and only bring charges if the agency is confident it can make a decision, former prosecutors said.
Trump’s announcement could be faster.
“I think the Department of Justice, with reason, will understand that we need to move like this in the first quarter of next year, before the program starts,” Rosenzweig said. “So we can’t wait … to take the charge until January 2024.”
Trump’s law will be affected by a number of civil lawsuits filed against him, from a civil fraud case brought by the New York Attorney General, to lawsuits seeking indicted for his actions before the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol to The defamation charge was brought by a woman who accused him of rape.
In cases related to his tenure in the White House, Trump sought to raise controversy about the legal protections he said his presidency afforded him. But he won’t get any additional protections just by announcing the presidential campaign.
“The U.S. Supreme Court allowed a civil suit against President Clinton in the 90s, when he was president. So, being a candidate for office does not preclude these types of cases. let’s move forward,” said Muller.
At least in the immediate aftermath of the announcement, perhaps the most significant effect of Trump’s announcement of his candidacy, where he has legal problems, will be the rejection of the Republican National Committee. the bill for lawyers to represent him in New York investigations. his business activities.
“We can’t afford a legal bill for an announced candidate,” RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel told CNN’s Dana Bash earlier this month.
He said the committee wants to fund its legal defense in a civil fraud case brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James because the RNC says that lawsuit is ” a political investigation” that began during his presidency.
Trump has also used money he raised as president for his leadership PAC — a fundraising body used to support other candidates — to pay for firms to represent him on the James case and other issues. .
“We can’t do favors for any candidate,” McDaniel said at the time. “At this point, he’s the former president who’s being attacked in every way and lawsuit. And he’s raised more money in the RNC than we’ve spent on these bills.