Some advocates for Donald Trump have argued that, regardless of what the former president did, it is too late for the Senate to convict him and disqualify him from being president again, because his term has expired. Others argue that it is too early—that Democrats are improperly trying to supplant the will of the people by preventing Trump from running for a second term in 2024. Trump’s new lead lawyer, David Schoen, has made both arguments.
The too-late argument has already been thoroughly rebutted. The too-early argument is just as wrong and dangerous. The notion behind it is that no one should prevent voters from deciding whom they want for president. Schoen contends that barring Trump from running again is “about as undemocratic [as] you can get, a slap in the face to the 75 million people who voted for Donald Trump.” It is very much not that. It is enforcing one of several rules in the Constitution that preclude certain people from running for and becoming president, regardless of what voters may want.
Perhaps the largest group of Americans who are constitutionally ineligible to be president are the tens of millions of naturalized citizens who were born in another country and immigrated here. The Constitution requires that the president be a “natural born Citizen.” This excludes, for example, former Governors Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jennifer Granholm, Senator Mazie Hirono, and the two-time Cabinet member Elaine Chao from eligibility, no matter how many people would want to vote for them. The same ineligibility applies to scores of accomplished immigrants, including business leaders like Elon Musk, distinguished professionals like the brilliant appellate attorney Miguel Estrada, and too many Nobel Prize winners to name just one.