Donald Trump's criminal charges 'don't disqualify him from becoming president'

Nearly three dozen criminal charges brought against ex-President Donald Trump will not stop his 2024 campaign and he could possibly even serve as commander-in-chief from prison, experts say.

Trump pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records in Manhattan Criminal Court on Tuesday afternoon. He faces a maximum of 136 years in jail for his alleged role in a $130,000 payment to porn star Stormy Daniels to silence her claims of an affair with him.

Many legal experts have opined that it is unlikely that Trump will serve time behind bars.

‘Trump faces a maximum sentence of four years on each count, but he may not get any prison time even if he is convicted,’ former federal prosecutor Neama Rahmani told on Tuesday.

‘He’s a first time offender with no criminal history, so if he behaves, doesn’t perjure himself or obstruct justice, he may walk even if the jury returns a guilty verdict.’

Ambrosio Rodriguez, a former prosecutor with the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office in Southern California, pointed out Trump’s age, 76, and that ‘this is not a violent crime, it is at best a campaign election violation’.

‘It would be a real nightmare in terms of where to house a former president inside a prison,’ Rodriguez told ‘So even if convicted, I don’t expect him to serve prison time.’

The charges ‘do not disqualify Trump from holding public office’, said Rahmani, who is president of the Los Angeles-based West Coast Trial Lawyers.

‘He can theoretically be convicted and jailed, and be president from Rikers Island,’ he said, referring to the prison that is notorious for brutal conditions.

Rodriguez, who specializes in criminal defense and founded the Rodriguez Law Group in Los Angeles, also said that being charged with a crime does not stop an individual from running for president. But he noted that in the scenario that Trump is re-elected, it remains to be seen if the criminal case would continue or be paused.

‘That’s never been resolved in our system so there’s no way to know,’ he said.

Both sides could spend the next six to nine months litigating the case, with Trump’s team aiming to get a motion to have it dismissed, according to Rodriguez. He opined that prosecutors with Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s Office ‘seem ill-advised’.

What is Trump charged with and what’s next?


The grand jury spent weeks investigating money paid during Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign to two women who alleged that they had extramarital sexual encounters with him.

Trump has denied the allegations.

His former lawyer Michael Cohen, who testified as a key prosecution witness, paid Daniels $130,000 through a shell company he set up and was then reimbursed by Trump, whose company logged the repayments as legal expenses.

Earlier in 2016, Cohen also arranged for former Playboy model Karen McDougal to be paid $150,000 by the publisher of the supermarket tabloid the National Enquirer, which squelched her story in a journalistically dubious practice known as ‘catch and kill’.


An indictment is the formal charge brought against someone after a grand jury — which is made up of members of the community — votes and enough members agree there’s sufficient evidence to charge someone with a crime.

The indictment against Trump remains sealed, as is standard in New York before an arraignment. But once the document is made public, it will lay out the crime or crimes that Trump is accused of committing.

Sometimes indictments include a lengthy narrative with lots of details about the allegations, while others are more basic and just outline the charges a defendant is facing.


Trump is facing multiple charges of falsifying business records, including at least one felony offense, according to two people who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss information that isn’t yet public.

Under the law, prosecutors must prove there was an ‘intent to defraud’.

The felony falsifying business records offense requires prosecutors to prove that the records were falsified with the intention of committing, aiding or concealing a second crime.

It’s not clear yet what prosecutors allege the second crime to be, but experts have said it is probably some kind of campaign finance violation.


An arraignment is generally the first time a defendant appears in court after being charged.

The judge will tell Trump the charges against him and advise him of his right to go to trial and other things.

Trump will enter a plea of not guilty — as is standard for defendants to do at arraignment. The indictment is expected to be unsealed upon his arraignment.

Trump is expected to walk out of the courtroom because the charges against him don’t require that bail be set in New York.

It’s possible — but unlikely — that Judge Juan Merchan could decide that Trump is a flight risk and order him held, with or without bail, though Trump’s lawyers would vigorously fight that.


Trump’s lawyers have vowed to ‘vigorously fight this political prosecution in court’.

Defense attorney Joe Tacopina has described Trump as a victim of extortion who had to pay the money because the allegations were going to be embarrassing to him. But he says it had nothing to do with the campaign.

Trump will no doubt try to fight the case on multiple fronts. He may try to have the case moved out of Manhattan or New York City entirely — arguing he can’t get a fair trial there — though it’s rare for judges to agree to do that.

Trump may also argue that the statute of limitations has passed.

He has complained that the statute of limitations ‘long ago expired’ because the hush money payments and Cohen’s reimbursements happened more than six years ago.

New York’s statute of limitations for most felonies is five years. For misdemeanors, it’s just two years. But in New York, the clock can stop on the statute of limitations when a potential defendant is continuously outside the state.

Trump visited New York rarely over the four years of his presidency and now lives mostly in Florida and New Jersey.


Neither the indictment itself nor a conviction would prevent Trump from running for or winning the presidency in 2024.

Already, the charges have been a boon to his fundraising. The campaign announced Friday evening that it had raised over $4 million in the 24 hours after the indictment became public, far smashing its previous record after the FBI search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club.

Trump’s team over the weekend blasted out emails full of supportive comments from dozens of top Republicans, many of whom had already been supportive of him leading up to the indictment.

Those likely to be facing off with Trump in next year’s GOP primary contests have also slammed the prosecution.

Former Vice President Mike Pence called the indictment ‘an outrage’ and ‘nothing more than a political prosecution’.

Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley said on Twitter that the indictment ‘is more about revenge than it is about justice’.

Biotech investor Vivek Ramaswamy, who is also seeking the GOP presidential nomination, called the indictment ‘a dark moment in American history’.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Saturday accused District Attorney Alvin Bragg of weaponizing the law ‘for political purposes’ to bring a case against a former president, never mentioning Trump by name.

‘There doesn’t seem to be a victim, not really, and I think the prosecution is going to have a very hard time getting a conviction,’ he said.

‘As to his reputation, it’s already baked in,’ Rodriguez said of Trump, ‘People already either love him or hate him.’

Rahmani said this indictment is not Trump’s biggest problem, but could tip off other ones.

‘It’s other prosecutors like Jack Smith and Fani Willis who may be emboldened to pursue more serious charges against the former president,’ he said.

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