Trump Has No Constitutional Right To Run For President
Any criminal trial supersedes his desire to return to the White House, and he should be given no quarter or special treatment
According to the US Constitution, there are only three qualifications for being president. You have to be at least 35 years of age, you must be a natural-born citizen, and you must have lived in the country for the past 14 years. That’s all the founders included. The rest, they assumed, would get sorted out by the people.
Conversely, there are only a handful of things that will prohibit an otherwise qualified citizen from holding high office, including being convicted in an impeachment trial and barred explicitly from future public office by a two-thirds vote in the Senate. According to the 14th Amendment, you can also be barred from holding any public office if you have “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.” It doesn’t even say you have to be convicted of as much, just that you did it.
Even if cast in the most favorable light, you’d be hard-pressed to say that Trump and his merry band of miscreants did not engage in insurrection or rebellion against the US Government, our federal election system, and the peaceful transfer of power. At the very least, they provided substantial aid or comfort to those who actively tried to subvert the will of the people. But that would still be an untested legal predicament to try to bar a former president from running for office.
There is a case to be made that Trump has disqualified himself by his criminal actions, and should therefore be barred from ever again holding public office. But beyond that, we need to recognize that running for President of the United States is not a constitutionally-protected right. Just because he has not been legally barred from doing so doesn’t mean the simple act of running grants him special privileges.
Trump is currently under criminal indictment in four separate jurisdictions, two state and two federal, and is facing 91 counts and the very real possibility of spending the rest of his natural life in prison. You don’t get a special pass from criminal prosecution just because you’ve decided to volunteer to be the President.
There has been a lot of discussion in the media surrounding the scheduling of court dates, and multiple pre-trial motions concerning what Trump can and cannot do as a criminal defendant running for office. There seems to be a misconception that Trump must be afforded some leeway from what is typical for a criminal defendant, merely because he is running for office. This is wrong.
Justice demands that Trump and his co-conspirators are treated no better and no worse than any other citizen facing criminal prosecution. They can’t be prohibited from trying to win an election, but they are guaranteed no quarter, either. They are owed nothing extra. There is no get-out-of-fail-free card just because you want to try to subvert yet another election and declare yourself President For Life.
Democracy in America has not yet fully collapsed, but it’s safe to say it’s been rattled and is on shaky ground. If we have any hope of returning this country to a state of law and order, where democracy is protected and secured, our criminal justice system must be blind to wealth and power. It’s a lot to ask. Maybe too much.
At the moment, it’s all we have left.
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