Stormy Times, Indeed

Stormy Times, Indeed

Wherever they attended school, Midwesterners in the Great Class of 1978 no doubt had something in common besides their graduation year. That is, all of the girls seemed to have names that ended in the letter y. In my schools, we had Amy, Becky, Candy, Darcy, Jenny, Judy, Kathy, Kelly, Mary, Mindy, Nancy, Sandy, Trudy, Vicky, and so forth. (Not to mention Lori, Lorri, and Laurie.) And then there is my Class of ’80 wife of nearly 40 years, Cindy.

But I did not know anyone named – or nicknamed – Stormy. That’s another thing that makes me different from at least one former U.S. President, evidently.

Stormy Daniels and her famous one-time-partner (initials DJT), have been in the news lately due to some sort of criminal case in New York. I say “some sort of” because it is not all that clear what exactly the factual or legal issues are in the whole sordid affair.

Despite the other paths a blogger could go down, the main aspects on which I focus today are the political questions involved, beginning with this one: What happens to the 2024 Presidential Election if the defendant is convicted in this New York case?

This Raises Serious Questions

The big “what if” asked above really involves a series of questions. The first is whether President No. 45, if convicted, would become Prisoner No. 45 (or some other, longer number) and be sentenced to serve time in jail. If so, how much jail time? The answer is that a normal sentence after a conviction for fraudulent business records to hide another crime would be up to four years, with the typical defendant actually serving around two years. Although there has never been a former, current, or future president even accused in such a case, my prediction is that, if Mr. T is elected in November, any jail time would be postponed until after his presidential term.

Can a convicted felon still be on the ballot? I think yes, as the U.S. Constitution does not bar a felon from running or serving in office. In fact, in 1920 Eugene Debs of the Socialist Party ran for the presidency from prison after being convicted for speaking out against the draft during WWI. He lost the election, but he was not prevented from running.

Can’t a person found guilty by a jury appeal the conviction? Of course, and this defendant no doubt would do so. How long do appeals take? Two years would be a fair estimate.

Where will he live during his appeals? In the event that he (1) is convicted, (2) is sentenced to jail time, (3) files an appeal, and (4) is elected again as President No. 47, I would not expect the filing of an appeal to change anything. Normally, a prisoner remains in jail during the appeal. A prisoner with another kind of sentence (such as home detention and monitoring), continues under the same conditions while appealing.

Could the Republican Party drop him as their nominee? I don’t think the GOP would do so, and I don’t see how it would even be legal to substitute a different candidate without permission of the person who won the nomination pursuant to party primary election rules.

Will all of this gain or cost him enough votes to cause him to win or lose in November? I’m guessing not. Opinions about the particular suspect currently on trial seem HUGELY locked in already.

Can a president pardon himself? Not in a state-court case like the one in New York.

Can a criminal conviction be used as a basis for impeachment? In theory, yes, any “high crime or misdemeanor” can be grounds to impeach under the U.S. Constitution. But, as we know, impeachment proceedings are highly political and require a two-thirds vote to convict in the Senate. I label impeachment as unlikely given the nature of the New York case. Democrats will vote to impeach, but Republicans will say, without irony, “the people decided in a fair election, during which everyone knew the facts that were fully explained by the media.”

Less Serious Questions

Imagine now a January 2025 in which the President-again has lost in court, actually been sentenced to jail, and – having won the election anyway – is inaugurated in the prison visitation room, then is forced to go back to his cell with his Secret Service folks living in the next one. This scenario raises additional questions, albeit a bit snarky and flippant in what will be a sad situation:

  • Will he have access to cable television and his social media accounts in prison?
  • Would the First Lady – assuming he still has one – live at the White House while he is in jail?
  • Could the prison cafeteria host state dinners?
  • Does an extra-long red necktie look better with an orange jumpsuit or black-and-white stripes?
  • The White House has the Lincoln Bedroom. Does the jail have the Al Capone Bedroom?
  • Who decides which of his friends can visit him in jail? Vladimir Putin wants to know.

In the comments section below, please add to the discussion your own questions (serious or not) and answers.

Written by Quentin R. Wittrock, founder of Principle Based Politics. 

Look for his posts each week, as this blog will explore and promote the idea of principle in politics, both as to individual elected leaders and our federal government as an institution.

Principle Based Politics does not endorse or support any particular political candidate or party.

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