So far, Trump has not been charged with any crimes. However, Jeff Wise posited that he has committed a host of crimes before and during his presidency. The writer added that once the “shield” afforded by Trump’s office — the belief that a sitting president cannot be criminally indicted — is gone, his potential legal exposure will be “breathtaking.” And if he loses the 2020 election, that protection will be gone sooner rather than later.
Already, at least a dozen criminal investigations into Trump and/or his associates are ongoing, and even if only one of them produces criminal charges, he could very well be looking at jail time.
“It’s going to head toward prosecution, and the litigation is going to be fierce,” says Bennett Gershman, a professor of constitutional law at Pace Law School.
Specifically, once Trump leaves office — assuming he loses in 2020 — Joe Biden’s Justice Department will have the results of multiple investigations to choose from. For example, Wise suggested that former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation uncovered evidence that Trump committed obstruction of justice, lied to investigators, and conspired with Russian intelligence to commit an offense against the United States. All of those carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison — and prosecutors could be ready to hand out indictments as early as the first quarter of 2021.
There will be legal matters to sort out, of course. Trump may preemptively pardon himself, and whether or not he has that authority could be a matter that ties up courts for years, eventually winding up before the Supreme Court. Similarly, his claims of executive privilege may have to be dissected by jurists as well.
However, presidential pardons do not apply to state laws, and Trump could very well find himself before a judge on one of those, such as in a criminal case related to the ongoing Jeffrey Epstein investigation.
If he’s convicted on a state charge, Trump reportedly might be headed to Rikers Island, the notorious New York City jail complex where murder and rape suspects are also held. Almost all suspects convicted in New York City courts are held there before they report to the prison where they’ll eventually serve their time.
He would then be housed there until ultimately transferred to whatever prison he would eventually serve his time at. Further, he would be unlikely to remain free on appeal, as New York courts are notorious for carrying out punishment sooner rather than later, Wise noted.