CNN Legal Analyst Elie Honig: If Trump Gets Re-Elected, He’s Not Going to Jail — Even in Georgia
CNN senior legal analyst Elie Honig has been a ubiquitous presence on air breaking down the various indictments brought against former President Donald Trump. He has the right experience for the job: A former assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York, Honig’s last book — Untouchable: How Powerful People Get Away with It — expertly examines how figures like Trump are able to evade accountability.
Now, it appears the law has finally caught up to Trump. The former president faces four indictments bringing a total of 91 charges, which if convicted on all counts would land him in prison for 712 years.
Whether Trump will actually ever see the inside of a jail cell, however, is another question entirely. It’s one Honig discussed at length with Mediaite editor in chief Aidan McLaughlin on the latest episode of the The Interview podcast.
“Trump deserves to be indicted,” Honig said. “Let’s start with that.”
“Is he going to actually go to prison, is a lot of people’s question,” Honig said. He explained:
He has to be convicted, which could well happen. I actually think it’s quite possible. Then he has to be sentenced to prison, which I think in any of those three cases [excluding the New York indictment] is likely. Then, though, if he wins the election, forget it. If he wins the election, he’ll throw out the DOJ cases, he’ll pardon himself.
Honig explained that when it comes to the Georgia indictment, a state case Trump could not throw it out or pardon himself from, “they’re not going to be able to try him while he’s sitting president.”
Pointing out that Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is merely “a county level prosecutor,” Honig argued that trying Trump as a sitting president would be the same as if a “Sussex County, New Jersey prosecutor tried to put Joe Biden on trial right now.”
“That would never happen,” he said. “I’ve heard people say, ‘Well, constitutionally, we don’t know.’ I’m sorry. My legal analysis on this one boils down to: That ain’t happening.”
As for the federal cases, Honig said those would get shut down by Trump’s Justice Department: “The DOJ indictments get dismissed, and/or he’ll try to pardon himself.”
“We don’t know if that’s legal or not, but the problem is the only way to challenge a self-pardon is DOJ has to indict him and then litigate. It’s going to be his DOJ,” he explained. “I guess theoretically he could be charged, he could be tried in New York and Georgia in 2029. But, I mean, if that’s what we’re waiting for, you know, I’m not going to hold my breath. He’ll be 80-whatever, two, and the conduct will be a decade old.”
Honig also raised the possibility that even if Trump loses the 2024 election and gets sentenced to prison, Biden might choose to commute his sentence. “A second term, 84, 85-year-old Joe Biden,” Honig said, could decline to pardon Trump, so the “conviction stands for history,” but conclude “I don’t think we need him to go to prison. I beat him twice in an election, let’s move on.'”
Ultimately, however, Trump will not “get locked up before the election, no matter what,” Honig argued, “because even if he gets convicted and then sentenced to prison all before the election, he will almost certainly get what we call bail pending appeal, meaning the judge will say you don’t have to start serving your time until you’ve exhausted and lost all your appeals.”
Honig said the process would take a minimum of a year to 18 months, even if expedited.
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