Ironically, arch-conservative lawyers are endangering Trump’s presidential plan

Political expert Thomas Jäger looks at various political scenarios regarding the Ukraine war and the US elections.

The left-wing democrats would certainly not have dreamed that they would squint longingly to the right and hope that two arch-conservative lawyers would be right in their assessment. William Baude and Michael Stoke Paulsen belong to the Federalist Society, a very conservative legal organization, and they have now come out with a paper that packs a punch. They want to have proven that Donald Trump, if convicted of conspiracy against the United States, would no longer be able to run for president. That would cause cheers among Democrats, especially those on the left, who consider Trump to be at least a racist. The left reject this form of constitutional interpretation, which Trump is now supposed to prevent.

When interpreting the American constitution, both lawyers aim to interpret it in the way the legislators meant it – and not in the way the change-oriented left forces would like it to, i.e. in a way that fits the zeitgeist. The two lawyers have worked out that following a conviction on conspiracy against the United States — the charge on his third indictment of storming the Capitol — Donald Trump would no longer be allowed to run for and hold the office of president. Unless two-thirds of the representatives and senators of both houses of the legislature would allow him to do so. At least the latter can already be ruled out with certainty.

It is still assumed that Trump will meet the conditions for the presidency

The basis of their argument is the 14th Amendment, which was introduced to bar those who conspired against the unity of the state during the American Civil War from holding public office. The historical context is obvious and any constitutional interpretation over time would reach its limits here. This does not bother the traditionalists among constitutional lawyers. They argue that the amendment was formulated in general terms and is therefore still valid today. And they have not the slightest doubt that Donald Trump promoted and covered up the conspiracy against the United States – through his own doing and hours of inaction.

It’s an outsider’s opinion. It is generally assumed that Trump meets the conditions to run for the presidency. He was born in the US, is over 35 years old and has been a US resident for 14 years. There are no other conditions. In addition, he is the clear leader of the Republican Party, leading the field in front of the – far behind – competitors with a whopping lead of 37 percent. If you’re that far ahead, you really can’t lose anymore.

He also does well against Joe Biden in the polls when the question is: Who would you vote for President? The two are equal. Eligibility is an important criterion, because after all, thousands want to be in the new offices. More importantly, three-quarters of Republican voters believe the party must stand firmly with Trump. Not even though he’s been charged three times, but because it is.

Trump presents himself as a victim

Trump stylizes himself as the chief victim of a corrupt administration in Washington that is destroying the country for everyone and making life more difficult for Americans, but most of all it hunts and stalks him. His voters buy that. The tremendous media attention he received during the indictments has fueled this trend, with Trump planning court appearances as if they were campaign events.

And that has another effect: the willingness to donate increases, Trump’s coffers are filled – even if his legal costs are now depressing him. He doesn’t like to spend his own money on his political ambitions. But he needs a strong legal team because the three charges brought so far are well founded. The evidence is overwhelming.

This applies in particular to the two processes that are being conducted at federal level. The first for stealing classified documents and refusing to cooperate in returning them. The second because of the conspiracy against the US and the constitutional process of transferring power after a lost election, which resulted in the storming of the Capitol. So far it has been assumed that even two convictions cannot stop Trump from running for election. He could even do that from prison. There he could be sworn in after winning the election and then pardon himself. This is improbable to the point of absurd, but not impossible.

evidence overwhelming

The fourth indictment, now pending, involves his attempt to pressure the Georgia official to collect 11,780 more votes. Because then Trump would have won the state. So he went to Biden. Again, the evidence is overwhelming and there are reports that the grand jury will meet in the next few days to vote on the indictment. It is very likely that it will be raised. A conviction would complicate the situation for Trump, because the president cannot pardon penalties at state level.

But maybe the most important decision will be made somewhere else, because after the elaborations of the two conservative lawyers on the 14th amendment to the constitution, it could be that the Supreme Court has to deal with this question in principle. In his third campaign, Trump remains a candidate who is completely out of the ordinary even in the eventful and colorful history of the USA.

Prof. Dr. Thomas Jäger has held the Chair for International Politics and Foreign Policy at the University of Cologne since 1999. His research focuses on international relations and American and German foreign policy.

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