A Trump Indictment Could Change Everything: The question of whether the FBI raid of former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home means he will either be indicted or reelected might be the wrong question.
The answer in this topsy-turvy political climate should be: Why choose?
An indictment wouldn’t legally preclude Trump from running and most certainly wouldn’t discourage him. It has likely strengthened him politically, at least in the short term.
The growing consensus among pundits seems to be that the Justice Department will secure an indictment against former Trump in connection with the Mar-a-Lago raid.
The sentiment also seems to be that it will come sometime after the midterm elections in November.
At the same time, we’ve also been hearing talk of the “walls closing in” since at least the time he was elected, and it turns out to be wishful thinking from the left.
After House Democrats thought once just wasn’t enough when it came to impeachment, that post-presidency Impeachment 3.0 in the form of legal charges seemed possible. Yet elected Democrat prosecutors tried multiple avenues, including going after his businesses, a case the New York District Attorney’s office all but dropped.
For a time, it seemed the most viable route for Democrats to get their nemesis might have been the Fulton County, Georgia District Attorney’s case related to the 2020 election.
But the audacity of the FBI raiding a former president’s home suggests the Justice Department feels it has something to gain, rather than further risk its eroding credibility, even if a case revolving around the Presidential Records Act seems lacking.
But if an indictment comes, it will likely be for either obstruction, the Espionage Act, or maybe both, based on the search warrant.
A charge under the Espionage Act, the rarely prosecuted law with a legacy of political abuse, would almost suit Trump just fine in terms of getting his narrative out about another politically-charged hoax.
Moreover, there is a historical parallel that Socialist Party presidential candidate Eugene Debs, was convicted of violating the Espionage Act for giving a speech opposing President Woodrow Wilson and World War I. Debs didn’t let a 10-year sentence stop him from running for president from a prison cell.
Debs, almost a Bernie Sanders of his day, won about 1 million votes from his prison campaign. He embraced it as Debs supporters handed out campaign buttons that said “Prisoner 9653.” After his election, President Warren Harding commuted the sentence.
As former U.S. Attorney and Trump ally Joe diGenova told Newsweek, “Eugene Debs ran for president from a federal prison. There’s no reason that that’s going to happen to Donald Trump, he’s not going to be in a federal prison. But, if he’s indicted, he will run for president.”
Trump might wear the indictment as a badge of honor the way Debs supporters campaigned on their candidate’s prison number. And given the Justice Department’s reprehensible conduct in recent years toward Trump, it will have much explaining to do to build credibility for such an indictment.
Perennial presidential candidate gadfly Lyndon LaRouche, who ran every cycle from 1976 to 2004, was convicted of tax evasion in 1988 and it didn’t stop him from running.
Still, it seems likely the left would attempt to keep Trump off the ballot–even if it’s a state-by-state effort.
Democrat election lawyer Marc Elias argued that a federal statute, 18 U.S. Code 2071, says willfully and unlawfully removing classified information means the offender “shall forfeit his office and be disqualified from holding any office under the United States.” Elias said this could at least set up a constitutional challenge to bar Trump from running.
However, the same speculation was bandied about in 2016 regarding Hillary Clinton’s email scandal. The same answer applies then as now–the Constitutional requirements– a natural-born U.S. citizen and at least 35 years old–to run for president supersede any statute. So 18 U.S. Code 2071 does not apply to a presidential run.
Though it’s possible blue state governors or legislatures would try to stir mischief by forcing Trump to devote campaign resources to sue for ballot access.
While the Jan. 6 Committee seems a distant memory now, the constant use of the term “insurrection” could also be grounds for states to attempt to keep him off the ballot under a fairly tortured interpretation of the 14th Amendment.
Of course, this would again be uncharted territory in electoral politics. Debs and LaRouche were splinter candidates. Trump is a former president that would attempt to be a major party nominee.
Moreover, attempts to bar Trump from the ballot would appear as if Democrats are trying to rig the game–which would play right into Trump’s messaging about the regime.
Fred Lucas is chief national affairs correspondent for The Daily Signal and co-host of “The Right Side of History” podcast. Lucas is also the author of “Abuse of Power: Inside The Three-Year Campaign to Impeach Donald Trump.”