Donald Trump announced his 2024 run for the presidency on Nov. 15. In his address he railed against what he perceived as the “persecution” of himself and his family, but made scant mention of his legal woes.
Confirmation of Trump’s White House bid comes at a curious time – a week after a lackluster Republican midterm performance that many blamed on him. Moreover, it comes as the former president faces multiple criminal investigations over everything from his handling of classified documents, to allegations of falsifying the value of New York properties. There is also the not-so-small matter of a Justice Department investigation into the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol.
The announcement has led some to speculate that Trump may be hoping that becoming a presidential candidate will in some way shield him from prosecution.
So, does an indictment – or even a felony conviction – prevent a presidential candidate from running or serving in office?
The short answer is no. Here’s why:
The U.S. Constitution specifies in clear language the qualifications required to hold the office of the presidency. In Section 1, Clause 5 of Article II, it states: “No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.”
These three requirements – natural-born citizenship, age, and residency – are the only specifications set forth in the United States’ founding document.
Congress has ‘no power to alter’
Furthermore, the Supreme Court has made clear that constitutionally prescribed qualifications to hold federal office may not be altered or supplemented by either the U.S. Congress or any of the states.
Justices clarified the court’s position in their 1969 Powell v. McCormack ruling. The case followed the adoption of a resolution by the House of Representatives barring pastor and New York politician Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. from taking his seat in the 90th Congress.