Can Donald Trump still run for president despite indictment?
A Manhattan grand jury has voted to indict Donald Trump on charges involving payments made during the 2016 presidential campaign to silence claims of an extramarital sexual encounter, his lawyers said Thursday, producing the first criminal case against a former U.S. president and a jolt to Trump’s bid to retake the White House.
Trump, who has denied any wrongdoing and has repeatedly attacked the investigation, called the indictment "political persecution" and predicted it would damage Democrats in 2024.
The indictment is an extraordinary development after years of investigations into his business, political and personal dealings. It is likely to galvanize critics who say Trump lied and cheated his way to the top and embolden supporters who feel the Republican is being unfairly targeted by a Democratic prosecutor.
In a statement, his lawyers, Susan Necheles and Joseph Tacopina, said: "He did not commit any crime. We will vigorously fight this political prosecution in court."
Yes, Trump can still run for president
Nothing in the U.S. Constitution prohibits candidates with criminal records from holding office.
The only qualifications needed to run is to be at least 35 years old and be a natural born citizen who has lived in the country for at least 14 years.
However, according to Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, a person who has engaged in an insurrection or rebellion against the United States, cannot hold office unless overcome with a two-thirds vote from Congress.
Minutes after the indictment was announced Thursday, Trump released a lengthy statement calling it the next step in a campaign from the left "to destroy the Make America Great Again movement."
"The Democrats have lied, cheated and stolen in their obsession with trying to ‘Get Trump,’ but now they’ve done the unthinkable - indicting a completely innocent person in an act of blatant Election Interference," Trump's statement said.
Trump accused Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg of "doing Joe Biden’s dirty work, ignoring the murders and burglaries and assaults he should be focused on."
Alina Habba, an attorney for Trump, said the former president is a victim "of a corrupt and distorted version of the American justice system and history. He will be vindicated."
An indictment wouldn’t stop Trump from continuing his campaign. There is no prohibition against running while facing criminal charges — or even following conviction. Indeed, convicted felons have run for president before, including from behind bars.
How will this impact his chances of winning in 2024?
Trump faces other potential legal perils as he seeks to reassert control of the Republican Party and stave off a slew of one-time allies who are seeking or are likely to oppose him for the presidential nomination.
The district attorney in Atlanta has for two years been investigating efforts by Trump and his allies to meddle in Georgia’s 2020 vote count. And a U.S. Justice Department special counsel is investigating Trump’s storage of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago home in Florida and his efforts to reverse his election loss.
Politically, Trump allies believe the case actually will benefit the former president in the short term by energizing his base in a competitive Republican primary, and would provide another boost later on if it ultimately fails to yield a conviction.
"The prosecutor in New York has done more to help Donald Trump get elected," says Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., echoing other GOP officials, who have also argued the probe will likely help Trump in the short term, even if it could prove damaging in a general election.
"It boggles the mind to think that we have an ex-president on the eve of being indicted still the frontrunner for the Republican Party in 2024," said presidential historian Douglas Brinkley weeks before Trump was indicted. "You would have thought (potentially) being arrested would have been a disqualifying factor in presidential politics. But Trump constantly surprises people by his devious and inappropriate behavior that he transcends by turning it into being a victim of a witch hunt."
The Associated Press contributed to this story.