What If Trump is Convicted But Re-Elected?

An extremely unlikely scenario.

I was somewhat amused by The Hill headline “Eric Holder: Trump conviction could lead to impeachment, removal from office” because Holder is surely sophisticated to understand that there’s simply no way, in that unlikely scenario, 67 Senators vote to remove Trump. But Holder’s point was actually somewhat different.

Former Attorney General Eric Holder said on Sunday that a possible conviction of former President Trump, if he’s elected to a second term as president in 2024, would lead to an impeachment proceeding and him being eventually removed from office.

During an appearance on MSNBC’s “Inside with Jen Psaki,” host Jen Psaki mentioned to Holder about Trump remaining committed to his 2024 presidential campaign, despite facing his second indictment in the past two months.

“Well, the notion that you could have a trial, defend it, be convicted, somehow win the election, be sworn in as a president, or whenever it happens, that seems inconsistent with our notion of fairness, of the rule of law,” Holder told Psaki. “At that point, I would hope that it impeachment proceeding might be considered. Not only considered, brought. And, ultimately, he would be moved from office.”

“The notion that a convicted felon, convicted felon, would serve as president of the United States is absurd. It’s simply absurd,” Holder added.

It’s hard to argue with the last point.

If Trump were somehow elected while the criminal trial was going on and convicted between the election and inauguration (or, even more strangely, elected after he was convicted), we’d be in a bizarre and unprecedented situation. Would the sentence be held in abeyance until after his term? Hell if I know.

There’s a longstanding DOJ rule that sitting Presidents can’t be charged with a crime. But Trump has been charged as a former President. Would a sitting President be sentenced or jailed for a crime he committed as private citizen? Again, we have no precedent for this.

As a theoretical matter, impeachment should be reserved for crimes committed while in office. But, ultimately, the House can impeach on whatever basis it wants. But, again, you’re not going to get enough Republican votes to remove Trump, anyway.

When asked if there should be an impeachment hearing and proceedings in Congress if Trump is convicted, Holder agreed, saying in part that people have “underestimated the impact of this indictment,” also noting Trump’s indictment in a Manhattan court in April and the ongoing investigations he faces in Georgia and in Washington, D.C.

“I’m not a political pundit, but I think at some point, you certainly won’t get beyond, you know, the Trump cult base, but for people who are on the fringes of that, the outside of that, are likely to have been negatively impacted by all of these cases brought against the former president,” Holder added. “I think that that will have some electoral effect. And so, the likelihood that he’ll be able to survive this and win a general election, I think, is pretty small.”

Well, yes. He got 3 million fewer votes than his opponent in 2016 and 8 million fewer votes in 2020. It took a perfect storm for him to eke out an Electoral College win the first time, carrying three states he wasn’t projected to win by fewer than 80,000 votes combined. Since then, he’s been impeached twice, indicted for crimes by both the city of New York and the federal government, and found liable in a civil sexual assault case.

Then again, he’s in a dead heat with President Biden in the head-to-head polling (although, granted, the most recent polls are before the latest indictment). While I think that’ll change once the campaign begins in earnest, the nature of a binary contest is that both parties have a realistic chance of winning. And the Republican nominee actually has a built-in head start because the system is weighted in favor of small, rural states.

FILED UNDER: 2024 Election, Crime, Law and the Courts, US Politics, , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Charley in Cleveland says:

    The absurd situations are piling up on each other in this hypothetical: a convicted felon refusing to withdraw; said convicted felon winning the presidency; and then a political party so cynical and devoid of ethics and morality that its members won’t vote to remove that convicted felon from the presidency….”leader of the free world.” God help us if any of this plays out.

  2. charontwo says:

    You had the piece yesterday on Jonathan Turley. Straw in the wind, canary in the mine, etc.

    This is pretty hypothetical, IMO, as, IMO, the wheels will come off the Trump chariot as people really think about what it would be like having a President so dangerous to national security.

    My prediction, this stuff will blow back badly at people like DeSantis and McCarthy perceived as defending the documents behavior. Plus, the Jan 6 indictment shoe is yet to drop – I have seen predictions that is pretty imminent.

  3. Tony W says:

    As I have said before:

    “We the jury find the defendant guilty of all charges, but will support him if he is the nominee”

  4. Sleeping Dog says:

    It seems that support for trump within the R’s is somewhat ahead of his core support in the party, but among the wider block of voters, the Smith indictment and the concept that no one is above the law, has strong support. While trump, may very likely win the nomination, it is hard to see him winning the general. These hyperventilating what if articles are so much pearl clutching.

  5. Tim D. says:

    First thing Trump would do is pardon himself, and that would be enough of a fig leaf for many Rs, I think, to avoid impeachment. Would the Senate confirm his AG after that? Who knows…

    He’d probably also claim to be able to pardon himself for the state crimes, and we’d have to sit through many rounds of disingenuous nonsense about how that’s what the founding fathers would have wanted. Maybe on a practical level he just decides not to visit NY or GA for the duration?

  6. Jax says:

    @Tim D.: It’s Trump. He will absolutely threaten to withhold ALL federal funding for any state with pending investigations or indictments against him, until they drop them. Can he legally do so? Probably not, but when has that ever mattered?

  7. Bob@Youngstown says:

    @Sleeping Dog:
    Some Republicans (see Santorum) declare that the Smith indictment is just another element in the Democratic Conspiracy to get Biden re-elected.
    The conspiracy theory works like this:
    Democrats believe that Biden would beat Trump in the general election, But they (Democrats) must take action now to insure that Trump is the R nominee. This indictment (and any others) will make Trump more appealing to the Republican electorate, assuring his nomination.

    The Smith indictment (and it’s support by the Biden DOJ), has nothing to do with documents or national security and everything to do with who wins in Nov ’24.

    Can’t argue with a crazy person (or party) – it’s a waste of time.

  8. Tim D. says:

    @Jax: Yeah, there’s a lot of mischief he will get up to if his back’s against the wall. Best case outcome: he flees to Russia in his private jet.

  9. Kathy says:


    I think he could declare any state with criminal proceedings against him to be in rebellion, and send troops to depose it.

    When you involve troops internally for coercion, the legal niceties and impediments simply melt away.

  10. CSK says:

    Look at it this way: Trump only won in 2016 because of the purest fluke. He lost in 2018, 2020, and 2022. Unpopular as Hillary Clinton might be, she still won the popular vote against Trump.

    He will probably win the nomination. But he’s guaranteed to lose the general.

    I hope.

  11. Kathy says:


    In a few message boards I frequented in 2016, there was serious speculation from the right that Benito was a Democratic plant, especially as the primary season unfolded and it looked like he might win. Some proposed he was a Clinton plant.

    This ended around the time of the conventions, and then many went all in the Orange Crazy Train.

  12. Andy says:

    I mean, the answer is pretty clear – there’s no prohibition in the Constitution prohibiting a convicted felon from being President. It’s really not that complicated.

  13. Kathy says:


    There’s nothing in the Constitution that lets a convicted felon out of prison to discharge the duties of an office they were elected to, either.

    I doubt there’s anything about such an eventuality in federal law, or in most state law as well.

    I’d like to see a state dinner staged in a cell block.

  14. Andy says:


    There isn’t, but there also isn’t anything stating that Trump couldn’t pardon himself once he is in office.

    The biggest unknown, IMO, is if Trump is convicted and imprisoned by a state, which the federal pardon power can’t touch.

  15. Kathy says:


    The NY trial is set for March 2024. Barring delays, odds are it will finish before November one way or another.

    So we may get to see what happens.

    Since Benito probably won’t withdraw from the race, he’d spare the world a whole lot of uncertainty, as well as do a lot of actual good, if he dropped dead soon.

  16. dazedandconfused says:


    Any state would be physically unable to imprison a POTUS.

    He drew the same judge that gave him a ridiculous stalling tactic in the issue of evidence, later overturned, but revealed her incompetence and political bent. I expect her to grant every possible delay this time, she can even dismiss the case.

    The odds he will go to trial before the election are not great, so perhaps the question might be what happens when a sitting POTUS is convicted of a felony?

  17. Grewgills says:

    The play is to delay, delay, delay, and hope he is sworn in prior to any conviction. At that point, he has the federal cases dropped and counts on being safe from any consequences of a state trial and conviction. I don’t see the Secret Service, at least not the ones Trump would surround himself with, allowing a sitting president to be hauled away to any state prison. If he is elected his federal problems dissolve and his state problems are delayed. After that he sticks to deep red states that won’t extradite him.

  18. dazedandconfused says:


    I can’t imagine any state LE agency obeying an order to go to DC and get him. Not happening. IMO the only thing assured to would strip away the federal LE and armed forces defending him would be impeachment. Anything less? They obey orders from the POTUS, or at least most of them will.

  19. al Ameda says:

    I do not see the ‘convicted but re-elected’ scenario as all that farfetched.

    in 2016, electorally, America decided to go for a swim in the Trump toilet. I do not believe that We – The America People – are so exceptional that we will clearly, obviously, and strongly reject Trump. We’re still trying to wash his stench out of our political lives but over 40 percent of the electorate won’t let us.

  20. Kurtz says:

    Is no one going to raise an obvious issue? GOP hardliners fight tooth and nail to continue the policy of disenfranchising felons. They seem more than willing to allow a guy to take office who wouldn’t be able to legally vote for himself.

  21. Kathy says:


    Isn’t that why they’re all giving themselves strokes* coming up with rationalizations to justify Benito’s crimes?

    *I know. If only that were so.

  22. gVOR10 says:

    @Kurtz: Florida passed a referendum a few years ago amending the constitution to restore voting rights to felons who’ve served their time. DeUseless and the GOP lege have been doing everything possible to obstruct implementing felon voting. But somehow I expect they’d find a way to allow Trump to vote.

  23. Not the IT Dept. says:

    My daughter put it best: it’s really not about Trump anymore but about how dumb American voters are. I tend to agree with her contention that because nothing ever really bad happened before then nothing bad will ever happen at any point in the future. So for a lot of Americans it’s all just a lot of hot air etc. etc. A woman who used to be a neighbor of ours came back for a family wedding and my wife and I got together with her and her husband for dinner. She was adamant that if people would just stop paying attention to Trump then he’d go away, it’s the media’s fault for covering him, just pretend he’s not there. I said I didn’t think it was going to be that easy any more but she was rock solid on this point.

    “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just.” Tom Jefferson, who got off a few good things in his day.

  24. Scott O says:

    Unfortunately, we live in interesting times.

  25. Kurtz says:


    Ha. I know. I voted for the amendment.

    Not only did they write the legislation to implement the amendment in a way that doesn’t fulfill their constitutional responsibility as defined by the passed amendment. They failed to enact a system to enforce the rules they set that directly oppose the amendment. Then they arrest people who violated their bullshit laws even though the people in charge of determining eligibility to vote told them they were eligible.

    Then they had the nerve to try to change the way potential amendments are brought to voters including requiring any amendment to pass in consecutive elections before being added. The stated reason I saw was maintaining an elegant, clean governing document.

    It’s nice to know that state legislators are tl;dr types.