Statement on Trump Indictment

Clark Neily

Reports that Donald Trump has been indicted on federal charges of mishandling classified documents, obstruction of justice, and conspiracy raise a host of mind‐​boggling questions, including whether it is possible for someone to run for president while incarcerated, whether a newly elected president can pardon himself, and whether President Biden will, in order to avoid the spectacle of the federal government prosecuting a declared presidential candidate during an election, pardon Trump preemptively.

Other questions include whether prosecutors can induce Trump to—as the vast majority of defendants do—waive his right to a public jury trial and plead guilty (doubtful), whether the case will be televised if it goes to trial (also doubtful—and shameful), and whether prosecutors can secure a unanimous guilty verdict from a jury in Southern Florida, where prosecutions of public figures are notoriously difficult. Regardless of how the prosecution ultimately plays out, it will likely represent a stress test both for the criminal justice system and constitutional provisions that have rarely—if ever—been explored or invoked. Buckle up—it’s going to be a wild ride.

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