Lock Him Up! The Excitement over Trump in Prison is Tellingly Premature

Below is my column in USA Today on the growing excitement among pundits on the prospect that former President Donald Trump could be going to jail. The celebration is a tad premature. Indeed, Trump could be convicted before the election and not be sent to prison for years, if ever. This is not to say that Trump will not go to prison. He most certainly could go to jail. However, the prospect of prison depends on the specific conviction, long appellate challenges, and pardons.

Here is the column:

With the indictment of Donald Trump, there is a palpable sense among many on the left that surely these indictments will bring about the long-desired incarceration of the former president. For some pundits and politicians, it is an anticipation that borders on obsession.

The Georgia indictment is a serious threat for Trump as is the Florida case. However, multiplying the indictments does not necessarily increase the chances of imprisonment before the election, or even during a second Trump term. However, the Georgia case does present a clear context for considering the prospect of prison for Trump.

The sense of anticipation was captured Monday on MSNBC, where Rachel Maddow and Hillary Clinton were shown laughing joyfully on the night of the Georgia indictment. The left is experiencing their own version of chanting “Lock him up,” with a boom business for merchandise celebrating the expected incarceration.

Yet, there is still a great deal of runway between the arraignments and any incarceration.

Let’s quickly review the four cases against Trump. The New York indictment, led by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, is the weakest. It is based on a thin legal theory pushed by a prosecutor determined to charge Trump for something … anything.

The first federal indictment is the strongest of the four. The charges over the mishandling of classified documents are based on established law and firm evidence.

The second federal indictment is similar to the Georgia case in terms of the underlying acts. Both the Georgia case and the federal indictment surrounding the Jan. 6, 2021 riot at the U.S. Capitol are based on the view that Trump and his associates knew that there was no reasonable basis to challenge the 2020 election.

However, Georgia adds state charges that could not only be difficult to challenge before trial but also are not subject to a federal pardon. The 98-page indictment contains 13 counts against Trump. The state charges include mandatory minimum sentences of five years in prison, with no leeway for the sentencing judge. Even five years in prison for a man who is 77 years old (and who never has been previously incarcerated) could be a terminal sentence.

As a threshold matter, a quick resolution of the Georgia case or the others is unlikely. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ demand to try all 19 defendants together in six months is wildly unrealistic.

Given the competing criminal and civil proceedings previously scheduled around the country, the Georgia trial may have to wait until after next year’s election. There are also likely to be motions to remove the entire case to federal court.

Even if it were held in the midst of the election, a conviction would not bar Trump from appearing on the ballot or taking the oath of office on Jan. 20, 2025.

During the pendency of these prosecutions, Trump can continue to run for office. Indeed, even a conviction would not prevent him from running for president or serving if elected.

There is even precedent for running for the presidency from prison. That distinction belongs to socialist Eugene Debs, who was on the ballot in 1920 while he served time in federal prison.

If Trump is convicted, most courts would allow him to remain free pending appeals on the weighty constitutional and evidentiary issues raised by the Georgia case. That process could easily take a couple of years.

And if Trump were to win in 2024 and a judge were to order his incarceration during his presidency, there would be an immediate challenge. While state offenses are not subject to the federal pardon authority, Trump’s counsel (and likely the Justice Department) would argue that incarcerating a sitting president conflicts with carrying out his federal duties.

Even if Trump were to be sent to prison, he would not likely be thrown into general pop with a bar of soap and a weekly call.  He currently has a federal security detail and, if elected, he would have presidential duties to perform. The state may have to yield to federal authority in how Trump is held to allow him to carry out his duties and to accommodate his security detail.

That challenge would take time, and the federal courts could balance the state and federal interests by delaying any incarceration until after the term. The courts also could effectively achieve that same result by extending the appellate process past the end of a second term.

During this time, there may also be a move to change the Georgia pardon law. Under the Georgia constitution, a five-member board (not the governor) grants pardons. Trump would have to wait five years to be eligible under the current provisions.  Georgia is only one of nine states with such a system, and there could be a push to give the governor more traditional clemency power. However, that constitutional amendment process is very demanding and Trump has hardly ingratiated himself with the current governor.

None of this is likely to quash the anticipation of Trump going to prison. Indeed, memes of a jailed Trump continue to be the rage online.

However, a review of the legal proceedings ahead is a buzz kill for the lockhimup crowd. Despite the proliferation of charges against Trump, there is nothing that guarantees that he will be sent to the big house instead of the White House, if elected.

Jonathan Turley, a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors, is the Shapiro professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanTurley

144 thoughts on “Lock Him Up! The Excitement over Trump in Prison is Tellingly Premature”

  1. Professor Turley, I’m trying to imagine Big Don hosting, say, a G-7 summit meeting, inviting all the other leaders to come to the klink with him for dinner, sitting with the cons. Or worse, having to attend a G-7 summit outside the country complete with ankle monitor and a bunch of Georgia State cops in attendance.

    I have to say this piece of yours is wandering about in cloud cuckoo land

  2. Is there really a UNIVERSAL Get Out Of Jail For Free Card??

    Well, yes, there IS such a thing! But it is kept well hidden and is known about by only a very few though, due to various reasons. The main one, is the populace is kept ignorant, dumbed down, as some like to say, via the public fool system. No one is taught real history or how to think about things anymore. Virtually no one knows what logic is or how to use it. Nearly everyone is taught only the mantra of “go along to get along”. Another one is “Why tell the truth, when a lie will serve almost as well?”. As if truth is a rare commodity that must not ever be wasted on trivial things, being saved for only the most momentous of occasions!
    So, what things could possibly be written on this all powerful and totally universal card? There are many things, but all of them have one concept in common, all of them expose some kind of fraud that is going on in the legal system. This may not seem like such a big deal at first glance, but it IS a big deal! It’s because fraud is one of the major things that the legal system is supposed to stand in opposition to, but without committing copious amounts of fraud on a daily basis, the current legal system couldn’t exist at all! Whom of the Actors, Operators, Agents or Officers that run the privately owned legal system, would ever tell you that compliance with it is done strictly on a voluntary basis? It MUST be done on that basis, because it is a criminal enterprise, and no man or woman can be forced to join in any criminal activities! To get around that technicality, the legal system uses something called implied consent, which is no consent at all, since fraud is involved. Look up the definition of Consent in any law dictionary, and then see how it applies to the legal system. While you are at it, look up Contract and Fraud too, and see how those definitions fit into the legal system.
    When one looks at the legal system as a totality, instead of just a few snippets of it here and there, one at a time, it is difficult, if not impossible, to know what the entire picture looks like! But after looking at enough of those tiny little bits and pieces, recognizing how they overlap and interact with each other, remembering the importance of each one and its complexity and its location, the bigger picture can be seen to emerge from all of the chaos and confusion.
    Consider now the reversal of a land mark case called Roe v. Wade, in 2022. Back in 1973, the USSC/SCOTUS made a decision about the life or death of unborn babies. Then, 49 years later, a whole new panel of “judges” said that it was an egregious mistake that had been made, without ever bringing in any new evidence, witnesses or legal theories! How is that possible? One day the decision of 9 men was totally valid, as it had been for 49 years, and then suddenly, the next day, it was not! What almost no one noticed there, was that the USSC/SCOTUS announced to the whole wide world on that very same day, that it is incompetent, irrelevant and immaterial when it comes to making sound and logical and correct legal decisions! If those men in what is considered to be the highest court in the land could not render a correct decision, then how can ANY court in the 100% corrupted legal system, make correct decisions at ANY time? Are we to wait around for 49 years to see if it was right or not?
    Another thing on this most magical of cards, is the demand for a copy of our written guarantee of actually getting a fair trial! If we do not have that guarantee, then every fake trial instantly transforms into one of two things; either it is a pure gamble with no outcome known beforehand, like in a coin toss, or, it is a well orchestrated scam being run on us, with an outcome that is known well in advance of the conclusion of the “trial”. There is no third option possible there, so take your pick of those. No man or woman can be forced to make bets or compelled to participate in any kind of a crime! If there is such a law, and it is a valid one, then where can it be found so all can read it and agree to it?
    We can add to that card The Seven Elements Of Jurisdiction, the Void For Vagueness Doctrine, Fraud upon the Court, the definitions of the words Contract and Fraud. And don’t forget that anything that is alleged to be a bona fide contract, is vacated for fraud, threat, duress, coercion, mistake, illegality, immorality, impossibility, insanity, unlawfulness or age of minority. Those things violate the five ESSENTIAL elements of a contract, and since there is no possible means to measure out how much violation of them is OK and how much is too much, we must not have any at all.
    There is a maxim of law, the legal system, which states that fraud vitiates all that it comes into contact with. Only a mere and brief contact is all that is required, not a thorough mixing in of the fraud like the spices in a cake mix! So we do not need some crazy idiot in a black robe who is deluded into thinking that he/she has been elevated to being some kind of god or other, to adjudicate on the amount of fraud that is OK to have, and how much is too much!
    This card is indeed universal in nature, because if a fair trial cannot be guaranteed, then what is the point of having one? Even in a country under a Communist dictatorship, like we have here in America at present, where guilt is determined by crazy people before the fake trials even begin, why bother with one? Why not just take all apprehended people, and execute them right there on the spot and save all of that wasted time, effort and money? What is to be gained by any fake and rigged up trials, except to distract the populace from what is really going on?
    The legal system, as has been shown earlier, is just one big scam being run on us all! Papers such as The Legal System Is Even WORSE Than Gambling!, The Achilles’ Heel Of EVERYTHING In The Universe, Pulling The Teeth Out Of The Mouth Of The Legal System, The Scam Of The Legal System, The Holes In The Legal System, Any Person Subject To…, Betrayal Of The Public’s Trust, I Do Not Recognize, Alleged Jurisdiction, Are These Questions Too Hot To Handle?, Do NOT Detain, Do NOT Molest List and many more, are extra sources to read for this data and come to a greater understanding of the world around us.
    It IS the completely corrupted legal system with all of its Officers, Agents, Actors and Operators, that enforces the tyranny of the few upon the many of society. The legal system has NO justification for its breaking of its own rules and regulations! And THAT is why the legal system MUST be run on a completely voluntary basis, none can be compelled into joining it, if they do not want to, because it runs contrary to the laws of Nature and Nature’s God.
    When enough people are educated in these facts and can see the logic in them, they will begin to decline the offer to be a part of the criminal cabal we call the legal system, they will call it into question, and it will lose too much business to be able to stay in business! And speaking of business, EVERY courtroom in America is listed in Dun & Bradstreet as a business, because that is exactly what they all are! They are set up and run to generate profits off of the uneducated majority! What business can keep its doors open, if no profits are being made?
    What would happen, if just 4% of the people who are scheduled for a fleecing in the legal system, submitted an Affidavit to the court, stating that they promise to not commit any kind or amount of fraud, and demanded that every other participant must do the same? WHO will take up that challenge? Certainly not the fake judges with their prostituting attorneys they keep in their back pocket! Not one of the private attorneys or LIEyers will sign it! Not one Bailiff or any Clerk of the Court or Public Defender will do so either! No Deputies or police officers will ever dare go near it! Who will be left then, other than the Court Reporter, whose job is to record accurately the proceedings of the scams and other crimes going on in there? The Circus Maximus will be devoid of all of the men and women who put on the show trials, so there won’t be any need for any spectators to be there. Don’t forget to ask how much crime any man or woman has a Right to commit or is obligated to endure, and what is the BASIC PREMISE that is being operated off of, in the instant case too!
    What do we do then to get our justice when we are injured in some way? We go back to Common Law Courts like we had before the case of Eerie R.R. Company v. Tompkins in 1939, when the legal system was hijacked by the criminal B.A.R. THAT is what we do! The jury of our actual peers get to decide our cases! “And who are a man’s Peers? They are his friends, neighbors and business acquaintances, for who else should know him better in order to judge him?”. Let those last few words weigh on your mind, for they ARE the truth that needs to be heard!

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