Former President Donald Trump on Friday promised that if he is convicted of a crime and sentenced to prison, he will continue to run for president.
John Fredericks, the host of a pro-Trump talk show, asked the 2024 candidate whether a conviction resulting in a prison sentence would “stop” his bid for a second term.
“Not at all. There’s nothing in the Constitution to say that it could,” Trump replied. “Even the radical left crazies are saying, ‘No, that wouldn’t stop!’ And it wouldn’t stop me either.”
Legally speaking, Trump is correct. The most famous example of an incarcerated person running for president is Socialist Party nominee Eugene V. Debs. Debs received nearly 1 million votes in 1920 while he was imprisoned for his opposition to World War I.
It is unclear what would happen if Trump won while incarcerated, however, since there is no precedent for that occurring in a major federal election. Some scholars have suggested that he could pardon himself immediately upon taking office.
Trump faces an array of different criminal charges and investigations. U.S. Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith indicted Trump in June, accusing him of mishandling sensitive classified documents and obstructing efforts to retrieve them. Trump has also claimed that he is a target of Smith’s probe into the events leading up to the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol, including a potential scheme to seat fake electors to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
Meanwhile, in Georgia, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has been investigating whether Trump sought to illegally tamper with the results of the election there. Trump lost Georgia to Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential contest, but he continues to insist that the state was stolen from him. In the weeks after Election Day, he sought to prove that he had been a victim of election fraud and pressured public officials to investigate his claims. As part of those efforts, he was recorded on a phone call asking Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s Republican secretary of state, to “find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have.” Trump disputes that his intention was to have Raffensperger fabricate the votes or otherwise tamper with totals.