Can Donald Trump run for president again if he breaks this law?

Early reports that the FBI’s search of former President Donald J. Trump’s Florida residence was tied to an investigation into whether he...


Early reports that the FBI’s search of former President Donald J. Trump’s Florida residence was tied to an investigation into whether he illegally took government records when he left the White House have drawn attention to an obscure criminal law prohibiting the deletion of official documents. Penalties for violations of this law include disqualification from holding any federal office.

Because Mr. Trump is widely believed to be preparing to run for president again in 2024, this unusual sanction has raised the prospect that he could be legally barred from returning to the White House.

Specifically, the law in question — Section 2071 of Title 18 of the United States Code – makes it a crime if someone who has custody of government documents or records “conceals, removes, mutilates, erases, falsifies or destroys” them willfully and unlawfully.

If found guilty, the defendants can be fined or jailed for up to three years. In addition, the law states that if they currently hold federal office, they will “lose” that office and they “will be disqualified from holding office in the United States.”

On the face of it, then, if Mr. Trump were to be charged and convicted of removing, concealing or destroying government documents under this law, it would appear that he is ineligible to become president again.

But there were reasons to be cautious: The law came under brief scrutiny in 2015, after it emerged that Hillary Clinton, then widely seen as the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, had used a server private courier to conduct government business while she was Secretary of State.

Some Republicans were briefly thrilled about whether the law could bar Clinton from entering the White House, including Michael Mukasey, a former attorney general in George W. Bush’s administration. So was at least a conservative think tank.

But in examining this situation, several jurists – including Seth B. Tillman of Maynouth University in Ireland and Eugene Volokh of the University of California, Los Angeles – noted that the Constitution sets eligibility criteria for who can be president, and argued that Supreme Court decisions to suggest Congress cannot change them. The Constitution authorizes Congress to disqualify persons from office under impeachment proceedings, but does not grant such power for ordinary criminal law.

Mr. Volokh Later reported on his blog that Mr. Mukasey – who is also a former federal judge – wrote that “on reflection”, Mr. Mukasey was wrong and that Mr. Tillman’s analysis was “perfect”. (Ms. Clinton has never been charged with any crime related to her use of the server.)

On Monday, one of the most prominent voices pointing to Section 2071, Democratic attorney Marc Elias — who served as general counsel for Clinton’s campaign — first cited the law’s disqualification provision in a Twitter post as “the very, very big reason why today’s raid is a potential blockbuster in American politics”.

He followed up with another Twitter post acknowledging that any convictions under Section 2071 may ultimately not prevent Mr Trump from running for president again – but arguing that a legal battle over it would still be important.

“Yes, I recognize the legal challenge that applying this law to a president would create (since the qualifications are set in the Constitution),” he said. wrote. “But the idea that a candidate would have to argue that during a campaign is in my view a ‘blockbuster in American politics’.”



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Newsrust - US Top News: Can Donald Trump run for president again if he breaks this law?
Can Donald Trump run for president again if he breaks this law?
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