Let’s just dispense with the fantasy of Comrade Trump being frogmarched out of the White House in handcuffs, put on trial, found guilty, dressed in an orange jumpsuit, and tossed in the hoosegow. It’s not going to happen.
It doesn’t matter if Trump has committed multiple felonies (spoiler alert — we’re like 98% certain that he has; before he ran for office, during his campaign, and after his election), he’s not going to be prosecuted for them while he’s in office. Maybe after he leaves office; that’s a possibility. But unless he’s impeached by the House of Representatives and convicted by two-thirds of the Senate, Trump isn’t going to stand trial — not for money laundering, not for conspiracy, not for obstruction of justice. It’s just not going to happen.
Here’s why: the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel has stated that “a sitting President is constitutionally immune from indictment and criminal prosecution.” They decided that back in 1973 and again in 2000. In 1973, the DOJ stated the following:
A necessity to defend a criminal trial and to attend court in connection with it, however, would interfere with the President’s unique official duties, most of which cannot be performed by anyone else.
Implicit in that line is this fact: If a sitting president can be tried for a crime, they could also be convicted — and if convicted, imprisoned, but they would still be the president. It’s not a part-time job (even if Trump treats it like one). The president is POTUS when they’re asleep, when they’re on vacation, when they’re playing golf, and when they’re in jail. They’d have to conduct the business of the nation and perform all the attendant duties of the office from a prison cell.
Now, you’re probably saying, “But Greg, old sock, Trump doesn’t bother performing most of the duties of his office now; surely he could Tweet from a prison cell.” Yes, it’s true, he could. But here’s the thing: Trump is a uniquely lazy and incompetent POTUS. Sure, locking him up wouldn’t interfere too much with the way he does his job. But in the future we may have a president who is both criminal AND competent, and locking up that president could seriously disrupt the security of the nation.
So the only way Comrade Trump could possibly face incarceration in the foreseeable future is for him to be impeached and convicted first, then prosecuted afterward. The coming House of Representatives might impeach him, but it would require two-thirds of the Senate to convict him and remove him from office. That’s 67 senators. There are only 47 Democrats in the Senate, which means at least 20 Republicans would have to vote to convict. And no matter how guilty Trump is (or might be), the GOP Senate has shown itself to be unwilling to hold Trump accountable for anything.
So no matter how solid the evidence is that Comrade Trump lied, cheated, and/or stole, he’s not really at risk of incarceration — not for the next couple of years.
After 2020, we’ll see.