Fact Check: Could Donald Trump Govern from Prison if Convicted and Elected President?
Democrats have fantasized about Donald Trump in a prison jumpsuit since even before he won the presidency.
But with Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg reportedly preparing a brazenly political criminal indictment against Trump, the fevered dreams of even the most fervent Trump hater could be appearing on the horizon of reality.
But could the weaponization of the justice system and the swamp of New York Democratic politics swallow even the possibility of second Trump term?
Not according to the Constitution of the United States, nationally known attorney and Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz said Friday.
“The only way that they could prevent him from running is if they could prove that he actually fought in the Civil War against the North,” Dershowitz said on “Cuomo,” a podcast hosted by disgraced former CNN anchor Chris Cuomo.
If Donald Trump was indicted or convicted, would that actually disqualify him from running for president? @AlanDersh tells @ChrisCuomo that Trump could run, win and govern from prison because there’s no constitutional provision against it.
Watch #CUOMO: https://t.co/s8z9kEhjMw pic.twitter.com/mvc7q9LgRs
— NewsNation (@NewsNation) March 18, 2023
“Absent that, there are three criteria for president, that’s it,” Dershowitz said.
“Thirty-five. He’s 35. Born in the United States. He was born in the United States. And he didn’t fight in the Civil War against the North.”
Even in the event Bragg’s prosecution is successful, it wouldn’t keep Trump from running for election the way other politicians have.
Socialist Eugene Debs famously ran for president in 1920, while in federal prison for violating the Espionage Act of 1917 by giving a speech in 1918 that criticized American involvement in World War I. (Democrats like Wilson a century ago had about as much respect for free speech as his ideological descendants in the Democratic Party do today.)
Debs lost, but still got a million votes.
Legendary Massachusetts politician James Curley had more success. A Democrat, he ran for re-election as Boston mayor from a prison cell in 1946 — and won.
Trump “can run from prison, the way Mayor Curley did,” Dershowitz said. “And he could win. And he can govern from prison.”
How successfully Trump could govern from prison is questionable, of course, but the standard of success being set by the current administration — party-line votes on virtually all major legislation, and nothing tangible to show that benefits the country for any of it — makes that question almost moot.
The fact is, Article II of the Constitution requires nothing more of potential presidents than that they be at least 35 years old and a “natural born” citizen.
The Fourteenth Amendment — ratified three years after the Civil War — prohibits the presidency to any individual who “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.” (Hence, the Democrats’ second impeachment case against Trump for “incitement of insurrection.”)
Of course, there would be logistical problems for a jailed candidate — Trump’s massive rallies around the country would be … problematic. And there’s no doubt Democratic states would pull every trick possible to keep him off the ballot. But there is no absolute rule that any criminal conviction short of treason would keep Trump from winning the presidency.
A conviction on a charge as ludicrous as the one Bragg is preparing — “nakedly political” as former prosecutor, author and commentator Andrew McCarthy described it at National Review on Saturday — isn’t even close.
In fact, it could conceivably help the former president by exposing, for those few Americans who are still on the fence, just how corrupted the justice system has become in the United States as Democrats have infected it at every level.
(This is the Alvin Bragg, remember, who’s presided over an explosion of inmates-running-the-asylum lawlessness in New York City’s most famous borough. If there’s one thing most Americans have heard about New York City lately, it’s that it’s being savaged by crime.)
As to whether Trump could actually govern? Well, Lyndon Johnson took the oath of office in 1963 aboard Air Force One, so there’s precedent for a president not being sworn in in the capital.
And post-inauguration, the president’s physical presence in Washington, D.C., is not strictly necessary in the age of modern communications.
After all, as President Joe Biden’s loyalists keep pointing out on his many vacations out of D.C., the president can do his work anywhere.
The fact that Trump is facing potential incarceration in a New York state prison rather than a federal prison might complicate things some.
Thanks to the beauties of federalism, the governor, not the president is the chief executive over a state prison system. In a federal prison, as University of Missouri law professor Frank Bowman told Insider for an article in November, in federal custody, the president could “designate the White House” a federal prison where “he’s the only inmate.” (And one with extensive visitation privileges.)
In a New York prison, Trump would be lucky to get a private shower.
The whole question is ludicrous, of course. But what’s even more ludicrous is that this is the state Trump Derangement Syndrome has brought the country.
The Democratic Party has nothing to offer Americans but an equally deranged agenda of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, critical race theory, sexually grooming young children through “drag queen story hours,” sexually mutilating older children to satisfy progressive “trangender” fetishes, and destroying the country’s economy while opening it up to an invasion of illegal immigrants.
And all of this is being done under the at least nominal leadership of a doddering octogenarian who heads a family that looks increasingly more corrupt with every passing headline.
That’s not a winning platform for sane voters, so attacking Trump is the Democrats’ go-to strategy — and the potential New York criminal case is just the most blatant yet.
But if there’s real crime here, it’s in the Biden White House — and the corrupt Democrat-media industrial complex that made it possible.
Could Trump run and win a second term — and govern from behind bars? Compared to the gang in office now, it would be an improvement.
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