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Can Trump Become President After Conviction?

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Donald Trump 2024 presidential campaign flag | Image by Svet foto/Shutterstock

Former President Donald Trump was convicted Thursday on 34 felony counts of falsifying bank records in what was described as a purported “hush money” scheme, and his guilty verdict has raised questions about whether he is still eligible to be elected president.

The U.S. Constitution does not prevent convicted felons from being president. The founding fathers created permissive requirements to allow virtually anyone to become president. The only three requirements are that the candidate must be a “natural-born” citizen, at least 35 years old, and have resided in the United States for a minimum of 14 years.

The verdict is not likely to bar Trump’s re-election; however, the conviction could cause some defections among voters, making it difficult for Trump to defeat President Joe Biden in November. Trump will face sentencing on July 11.

There is an outside possibility that Trump could be sentenced to jail. Each of the 34 counts carries a maximum sentence of four years behind bars, and Judge Juan Merchan has a great deal of flexibility in the sentencing process. New York state law caps the maximum sentence for the crimes Trump was convicted of at 20 years. While it is possible Trump could be headed to jail, many experts believe it is unlikely.

“With a defendant who has no prior criminal record, my absolute expectation would be a sentence of probation,” Mitchell Epner, a New York litigator with decades of experience, told USA Today.

Trump’s defense attorney, Todd Blanche, told CNN that the former president’s legal team was prepared for the verdict and would “vigorously fight” the conviction. Still, Trump must be sentenced before an appeal can be entered. Blanche gave a brief preview of some of the issues the team will ask the appeals court to examine.

“Every single person on the jury knew Donald Trump — as president, as candidate, from ‘The Apprentice’ — so I don’t accept that this was a fair place to try President Trump,” Blanche said. “There was so much publicity around the witnesses … leading up to the trial that our system of justice isn’t supposed to be a system where every person who walks into the courtroom knows about the case.”

Blanche said Trump’s legal team will also file a series of motions ahead of sentencing to argue about the fairness of the trial and the context of testimony delivered by former porn star Stormy Daniels and convicted felon and former Trump attorney Michael Cohen that he claims the jury overlooked.

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