Can Donald Trump still run to be president after being charged with a crime?

Donald Trump has been charged - but could he still run for the White House? Credit: AP

By Connor Parker, ITV News Multimedia Producer

Donald Trump is facing a possible prison sentence after being charged with a crime in New York and it raises the question - can you be president from jail?

The former president has blasted the charges - relating to hush-money payments made on his behalf during his 2016 presidential campaign - as a "witch hunt."

The indictment marks an extraordinary turn in American history, making Mr Trump the first former president to face a criminal charge.

Polls show Mr Trump remains the undisputed frontrunner for the Republican nomination, and his standing has not faltered, even amid widespread reporting on the expected charges.

Mr Trump's campaign and his allies have long hoped an indictment would serve as a rallying cry for his supporters.

The charges related to hush-money payments made to Stormy Daniels. Credit: AP

At Mr Trump's first rally of the 2024 campaign, held in Texas over the weekend, supporters expressed widespread disgust with the investigation and insisted the case wouldn't affect his chances.

Others in the crowd said their support for Mr Trump had been waning since he left the White House, but the looming indictment made them more likely to support him in 2024 because they felt his anger had been justified.

The former president surrendered to authorities on Tuesday on charges connected to hush money payments made during the 2016 presidential campaign to women who alleged extramarital sexual encounters.

Can someone charged or convicted of a crime run to be President of the United States?

In short, yes, there is no reason someone charged with a crime or serving a prison sentence cannot run to be president.

The charges have invigorated Trump's base. Credit: AP

The constitution lists just three qualifications for a person to be President of the United States:

  • Be at least 35 years old;

  • Be born in the US;

  • Have lived in the US for more than 14 years.

There have been legal debates in the US about adding more requirements to qualify for the nation's highest office but they have been described as unconstitutional.

This means whether charged with a crime or convicted of one, regardless of how serious it is, does not disqualify a person running to be President of the United States.

Mr Trump appears to know this and has indicated he will still run for president regardless of the charges.

One of his lawyers, Alina Habba, was also insistent it will not affect his campaign to become president again in 2024, telling ITV News "technically you can run the United States from prison".

She claimed the possibility of his indictment is a "really sad moment for our country".

"This isn’t going to take him down, he’s definitely not going to jail, it’s not happening," she added.

"The country is in severe trouble."

Mr Trump's situation is not without precedent.

In 1920, Eugene Debs, a well-known socialist and trade unionist, ran to be president despite being in federal prison.

Mr Debs had run for president four times previously as a socialist but won the most success during the 1920 election, despite being in prison, garnering 3.4% of the vote.

He was imprisoned in 1918 for speaking out against America's involvement in World War One.

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At the time no one disputed his right to run for president.

Despite all of this, if Mr Trump were to be elected with charges looming over him or while he was in prison, it would present a dramatic challenge for the US government.

He could pardon himself of the federal charges against him, but presidents have no power to pardon state charges.

Despite being legally allowed to run as president with a criminal case looming over him, it will likely not do him any favours politically.

Polls already show his base supporters back him all the way, but all the legal drag could put off the all-important swing voters he needs to convince to back him.