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Lock Up Donald Trump?

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Q: Will Donald Trump spend the rest of his life in prison?

A: No one knows – not even Trump or his hairdresser.

Do you think former President Donald Trump will spend even a single day in jail? Considering that the man is a career criminal, it would be reasonable to assume that his having attained the age of seventy-seven without once being imprisoned, it is quite unlikely that he will ever be locked up.

But over the first eight or nine months of 2024, Trump will probably stand trial in three or four cases in which he faces criminal charges. If found guilty, Trump might well spend of the rest of his life in prison.

Still, he is considering at least seven different options. Let’s examine each of them:

  1. Get elected president in 2024, and then pardon himself for any federal crimes for which he was convicted or might be convicted
  2. Work out an arrangement with the Republican presidential nominee for a pardon
  3. Work out a deal with President Joe Biden to pardon him, perhaps in exchange for agreeing to withdraw completely from American politics
  4. Work out plea deals with each of the prosecutors who have gotten him indicted
  5. Take his chances in court, perhaps hoping for hung juries, if not outright acquittals
  6. Run out the clock by stalling each case until after election day
  7. Flee the country before he is convicted of any crime and facing prison time  

Now let’s look at the feasibility of each of these seven options that Trump may be considering.

Get Elected President And Then Pardon Himself

Although the Republican presidential nominating convention is about eleven months away, Trump is, by far, the prohibitive favorite. Of course, it would be highly problematical that he would beat President Biden in the fall election, especially if he were to have been found guilty in any of his criminal trials.

But if he were able to win back the presidency, he would have an excellent shot at being able to pardon himself. While no previous president ever pardoned himself, Trump would very likely be found to have acted legally by the Supreme Court if he were to do so.

Even if he were unable to pardon himself, he might be able to serve out his entire term without being put in jail. On the other hand, he might be unceremoniously carted off to jail.

This is the scenario that Trump is shooting for. He obviously thinks it’s his best shot at staying out of jail.

Work Out An Arrangement With The Republican Nominee For A Pardon

Nearly all his rivals would fall all over themselves to pardon Trump. But this would be very unlikely to happen, since Trump will almost certainly win the Republican nomination. It could happen if Trump were to drop out of race — which is not very likely.

Work Out An Arrangement With President Joe Biden To Be Pardoned

There is, of course, a historical precedent for this. In 1974, President Gerald Ford did issue a pardon to former President Richard Nixon, a fellow Republican. But there is no way that the man Trump calls “Crooked Joe Biden” would ever dream of pardoning Trump.

Work Out Plea Deals With Each Of The Prosecutors Who Have Gotten Him Indicted

In order for this to keep him out of jail, he would need to work out deals with all the prosecutors, since a deal with just one or even two would not guarantee that Trump would not be convicted in his other trials. But this strategy could conceivably work.

Take His Chances In Court, Perhaps Hoping For Hung Juries, If Not Outright Acquittals

This strategy could work, but it would be very risky. It would take just one criminal conviction to send him to prison, possibly for the rest of his life. Even if there are hung juries, the cases could be retried.

Run Out The Clock By Stalling Each Case Until After Election Day

While this legal strategy served Trump extremely well for five decades, each of his current prosecutors and judges is clearly on to his tricks, and will be sure to move their cases expeditiously.  

Flee The Country Before He Is Convicted Of Any Crime And Facing Prison Time

This is largely an issue of timing. Trump would need to leave the U.S. before his passport has been confiscated, and certainly before he was convicted of a serious crime. He would also have needed to move as much money as he could overseas.  

Perhaps most dauntingly, he’d had to have chosen a country that does not have an extradition treaty with the U.S. His choices would be Russia, China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Ecuador, Bolivia. Nicaragua, Iceland, Switzerland, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe. And in most of these countries, their rulers would probably steal virtually all of his money.


Given the choice of fleeing the county or spending the rest of your life in prison, what would any rational person do? Next question: Is Donald Trump a rational person? Even if the legal handwriting were on the wall, would he just take his money and flee to another country?

I doubt that he will. My guess is that he’ll easily win the Republican presidential nomination and run in the general election – even if he has to do it from a jail cell.

There certainly is a fairly good chance that something could be legally worked out that would keep Trump out of jail. But I strongly doubt that if the terms included his giving up his quest to return to the White House, he would find them unacceptable. Who knows? Maybe he’ll luck out and live the rest of his life under house arrest.

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Steve Slavin

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