How Trump’s conviction could change the dynamics of the 2024 race


Former President Donald Trump has been found guilty of 34 counts of falsifying business records in his Manhattan criminal trial, adding another layer of uncertainty to an already unprecedented campaign.

As a convicted felon, Trump is not barred from continuing campaign for president, since the Constitution does not prohibit candidates from running for president even if they are convicted of a crime. Indeed, there is precedent for a candidate running behind bars: In 1920, Socialist Party candidate Eugene V. Debs ran for president from a federal penitentiary in Atlanta.

Trump is the first former president of the United States to be convicted of a felony and the first major party candidate to run for office after being convicted of a felony. Here's how his conviction could change the 2024 campaign:

How can Trump campaign after his conviction

Now that he's been convicted, Trump is almost certain to appeal the jury's decision, and it's likely he could return to the campaign trail as the trial unfolds.

The next development of the case will reach the verdict. Judge Juan Merchan has wide discretion over when the sentence occurs and what the punishment is. Sentencing hearings are typically scheduled within six to eight weeks of a conviction. Trump faces a maximum of four years in prison and a $5,000 fine for each of the 34 counts of falsifying business records. Sentencing options available to Merchan include prison, probation, fines or house arrest.

The judge could place limitations on his travel, such as restricting Trump from leaving the state and taking his passport, but Merchan has said he does not want to interfere with his ability to campaign.

“I would think that the judge would not dare to interfere with his right to speak to the American public because it is also the right of the voters to be informed,” said John Coffee, a professor at Columbia Law School and an expert on corporations . governance and white-collar crime.

In a recent survey of dozens of cases brought by the Manhattan district attorney's office in which falsifying business records was the most serious charge in the indictment, attorney and author Norm Eisen found that about one in one in 10 of these cases resulted in a prison sentence.

“I think this is fascinating,” said Caroline Polisi, a criminal defense attorney and professor at Columbia Law School. “Many commentators say the reason he won't be jailed is because the Secret Service logistics would be too much. On the other hand, if you say he should be treated like any other defendant, we have a lot of data that says 90% of the other defendants would not go to prison in this situation.”

The sentencing's impact on Trump's ability to campaign could largely depend on what sentence Merchan ultimately hands down and when Trump would serve it.

“In the context of him being found guilty and then sentenced to no jail time, I don't think it makes one bit of difference,” Polisi added. “There might be some minor issues. He might not be able to vote for himself. But other than that, I don't think there will be any issues.”

In determining Trump's sentence, the judge could take into account his numerous violations of gag orders, which led Merchan to threaten him with prison if the violations continued, and his lack of remorse demonstrated or respect for the legal system. Throughout the trial, Trump referred to Merchan as “controversial” and “corrupt” and the case itself as a “sham.”

“In New York, a 78-year-old defendant, who is a first-time offender, committed a non-violent crime and has a, well, distinguished record; in some ways, it's distinguished by being a former president. In this kind. of the world , there would be no chance of a prison sentence,” Coffee said. “They can use probation, they can use fines. But there may be the opinion of many judges that you have to show that no one is above the law, and even the next president should have a taste of prison”.

Even if Merchan orders Trump to serve time behind bars, the sentence could be delayed until his appeal is over.

“In other cases, when you don't have someone running for the White House, it would be more or acceptable to immediately put them in jail,” Coffee said. “You could certainly put special conditions on what he could do or put him under house arrest, but I think until we get to the actual election, we're going to have to let Donald Trump run and campaign.”

The potential impact of the conviction on Trump's poll numbers and support

Trump has predicted that a conviction in that trial could boost his poll numbers.

“Even if he is convicted, I think it has absolutely no impact. Maybe it will increase the numbers, but we don't want that. We want to have a fair verdict,” Trump. he told CBS Pittsburgh in an interview earlier this month.

Trump's support among his Republican base has been remarkably resilient in the face of his various criminal cases. In the months following his four indictments last year, Trump maintained a commanding lead in the Republican primaries, capturing the nomination despite the dozens of criminal charges he faced.

Many Trump supporters CBS News has interviewed since the trial began have said a guilty verdict won't change how they vote in November, embracing the former president's complaints as their own.

“Stormy Daniels has already been vetted and stuff. It's kind of a fluke,” Michigan resident Lori Beyer said at a recent rally in Freeland, Mich., adding that she would vote for Trump regardless of the conviction. “I don't think it affects it, as far as I'm concerned.”

Whether a conviction changes the minds of voters who are not committed to the former president remains to be seen. A recent CBS News The poll found that most Americans believe Trump is “definitely or probably” guilty of the charges he faced in New York. An overwhelming majority of Democrats, 93 percent, believed Trump was guilty, while 78 percent of Republicans said he was not. Independents were split, with 53% believing he was guilty and 47% not.

Opinions about whether or not Trump was guilty were already highly partisan, according to Kabir Khanna, CBS News' deputy director of elections and data analysis. Most people who believed Trump was guilty also thought the jury would convict him, and vice versa.

Also, Khanna said that people who followed the trial closely were the most polarized in their opinions.

“Together, these factors could mitigate the verdict's impact on the views of an already divided public,” Khanna said. “Some voters may be swayed by the news, but I wouldn't expect a radical change.”

Other polls support this notion. An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll released Thursday found that 67 percent of registered voters nationwide said a Trump conviction would not change how they would vote. Among independents, just 11% said a guilty verdict would make them less likely to vote for Trump.

The conviction also gives the Biden campaign a potentially powerful new weapon in its arsenal: the ability to label Trump a convicted felon. Mr. Biden remained largely silent on Trump's trial while it was underway, but NBC News reported last week that he planned to be more aggressive about Trump's legal problems after the trial ended, though he acknowledged that Trump would be on the ballot regardless of how legal cases played out.

Trump has used the trial to help boost his fundraising and will likely look to capitalize on the conviction. The Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee saw an influx of donations after jury selection began, with the two entities raising $76 million in April. His campaign had about $50 million in cash on hand in early May as it prepared to return to the campaign trail after the trial.

The former president repeatedly used the facts of the trial to raise money, even when he was held in contempt for violating the gag order against him.

“I'd get arrested a million times over before I let these dirty dogs get their hands on you,” read one typical fundraising appeal.

Trump's other criminal cases

The New York case could be Trump's only one four criminal proceedings to reach a conclusion before voters cast ballots in the fall, lending added weight to the guilty verdict.

The two federal cases brought by special counsel Jack Smith remain in limbo.

In Washington, DC, Trump faces charges related to his actions to stay in power after the 2016 election. Trump has argued that he is immune from prosecution and the Supreme Court is weighing his case.

The high court heard arguments in the immunity dispute on April 26 and is expected to issue a decision on the matter before the court's term ends, likely in June. If the case is allowed to move forward, there is little chance the district court will be able to schedule a trial before November. If the judges side with Trump and find him immune from prosecution, the charges would be dropped.

In Florida, Trump faces federal charges stemming from his withholding of classified documents after leaving the White House. Judge Aileen Cannon, who was appointed by Trump, has postponed the trial indefinitely. He ruled in early May that choosing a trial date would be “reckless and inconsistent with the court's duty to fully and fairly consider” numerous unresolved pretrial motions. Those motions include Trump's efforts to have the case dismissed entirely, as well as issues related to what classified information can be disclosed at trial.

In the third case that remains pending, Trump faces state charges related to the 2020 election in Fulton County, Georgia. The trial in that matter is also on hold as Trump seeks to have District Attorney Fani Willis removed from the case. The Georgia Court of Appeals recently accepted Trump's appeal of a decision that had allowed him to stay, temporarily halting the trial.

Trump's two federal cases could be largely in the hands of voters if they are not resolved in November, increasing his personal stake in the outcome. If he wins and returns to the White House in January 2025, Trump could order the Justice Department to try to drop the charges entirely.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to all criminal cases against him.


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