Will the Mar-a-Lago investigation stop Trump from running for president in 2024?
Some believe that this investigation could interfere with Trump’s presidency plans, but others think the former president has nothing to worry about
Following a ruling from a judge in late August, the FBI released an affidavit outlining the cause for the search of former President Donald Trump’s home in Mar-a-Lago, Florida. The affidavit stated that some documents in Trump’s home included sensitive information, some of which contained classified information about national security and the Secret Service.
In the past, Trump has spoken of plans to run for a second term in 2024. However, this investigation brings up the question: Will it be allowed?
The Presidential Records Act of 1978
As the law currently stands, people with a criminal history — with some exceptions — can still run for president. However, the Presidential Records Act, which was signed into law following Watergate, states that any documents from a president’s time in office belong to the public sector. Destroying, concealing or improperly removing these documents from the National Archives violates this act.
“That’s a real law, and if Donald Trump violated that law ... that has real penalties, including the fact that he may never be able to serve in federal office again,” said presidential historian Michael Beschloss to MSNBC.
If eventually this case results in a trial, a court could possibly rule on whether or not Trump violated this act. The law states that anyone who violates the Presidential Records Act is prohibited from running for federal office. The Department of Justice states that Trump’s actions are in violation of the act, but his legal team disagrees, according to court filings.
“No president has the right to retain presidential records after he or she leaves office,” said Jason R. Baron, a former director of litigation at the National Archives, per NPR. “And so it is an extraordinary circumstance if presidential records are found in a former president’s residence or anywhere else under his control.”
Are Trump’s 2024 candidacy plans under any real threat?
Brian Kalt, a constitutional law professor at Michigan State University, says that the Presidential Records Act won’t hold up under constitutional review. The constitution only poses two limitations on running for president: age and citizenship. Any person over 35 years old who was born in the U.S. and is currently a resident can run for president.
Although there is some conflict between a federal law — the Presidential Records Act — and the Constitution, Kalt says that the Constitution comes before any other law. Kalt believes that if the former president was charged and convicted of violating the Presidential Records Act, that the Supreme Court would side with the constitution, allowing Trump to run for president.
“If I were advising Mr. Trump, I would say you should not worry about this. You should be fine,” said Kalt.