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Former President Donald Trump was indicted by a grand jury in New York Thursday — but that does not mean his 2024 presidential campaign is over.

Trump, who announced his candidacy in November, can still run for president.

“Nothing stops Trump from running while indicted, or even convicted,” said Richard Hasen, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles.

The Constitution requires only three things of candidates:

  • A natural-born citizen.
  • At least 35 years old.
  • A resident of the US for at least 14 years.

As a political matter, it’s maybe more difficult for an indicted candidate, who could become a convicted criminal, to win votes. Trials don’t let candidates put their best foot forward. But it is not forbidden for them to run or be elected.

There are a few asterisks both in the Constitution and the 14th and 22nd Amendments, none of which currently apply to Trump in the cases thought to be closest to formal indictment.

  • Term limits. The 22nd Amendment forbids anyone who has twice been president (meaning twice been elected or served part of someone else’s term and then won his or her own) from running again. That doesn’t apply to Trump since he lost the 2020 election.
  • Impeachment. If a person is impeached by the House and convicted by the Senate of high crimes and misdemeanors, he or she is removed from office and disqualified from serving again. Trump, although twice impeached by the House during his presidency, was also twice acquitted by the Senate.
  • Disqualification. The 14th Amendment includes a “disqualification clause,” written specifically with an eye toward former Confederate soldiers.

The indictment in New York City with regard to the hush-money payment to an adult-film star has nothing to do with rebellion or insurrection. Nor do potential federal charges with regard to classified documents.

Potential charges in Fulton County, Georgia, with regard to 2020 election meddling or at the federal level with regard to the Jan. 6 insurrection could perhaps be construed by some as a form of insurrection. But that is an open question that would have to work its way through the courts. The 2024 election is fast approaching.3:48 a.m. ET, March 31, 2023

Here’s what a grand jury is and what an indictment means

Analysis from CNN’s Zachary B. Wolf

Following the Manhattan grand jury’s indictment of former President Donald Trump, it’s worth looking at the mechanics of what’s going on in the legal system and how the process that applies to everyone is being applied to Trump.

We spoke to Elie Honig, a CNN legal analyst, former federal prosecutor and author of the new book, “Untouchable: How Powerful People Get Away With It,” for a refresher on how grand juries and indictments work. Part of our conversation, conducted by phone, is below:

Grand jury vs. trial jury

WOLFWhat should we know about the difference between a grand jury and a trial jury?

HONIG: A grand jury decides to indict, meaning to charge a case. A trial jury determines guilt or non-guilt.

A grand jury is bigger, typically 23 members, and the prosecutor only needs the votes of a majority of a grand jury — as opposed to a trial jury, which has to be unanimous.

The standard of proof in a grand jury is lower than a trial jury. In a grand jury, you only have to show probable cause, meaning more likely than not. But of course in a trial setting, you need to show proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

The other thing to know is a grand jury is an almost entirely one-sided process.

Usually the only people allowed in the room at all are the grand jurors, the prosecutors, the witnesses and a court reporter.

In some instances, including New York, there’s a limited right of a potential defendant to present some evidence, but no defense lawyers are allowed in the room.

There’s no cross-examination of the prosecution’s evidence. There’s no presentation of defense evidence.

Close to every time a prosecutor seeks an indictment from a grand jury, he or she will get an indictment from the grand jury.

What is an indictment?

WOLFHow would you define “indictment”?

HONIG: It’s a document setting forth formal charges against the defendant.

3 Trump grand juries

WOLF: We have three grand juries that are top of mind  for election meddling in Georgia, at the federal level for declassified documents and then the Manhattan DA. How much variation is there in grand juries between city, county and federal?

HONIG: There are minor variations, but the basics remain the same.

Here’s an example of one of the minor variations in New York State, but not in the federal system, meaning for DOJ. The defendant does have some limited right to be notified and given a chance to testify or present defense evidence, which we saw play out with Trump and then him asking Robert Costello to testify.

That’s not the case federally. You do not have to give a defendant a chance to testify or present evidence. That’s one slight variation. But the basic fundamentals are the same.

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