Until Thursday, when former President Donald Trump was indicted in connection with a New York hush-money probe, no former or current president of the U.S. had ever faced criminal charges.
But plenty of American politicians have been indicted or convicted of crimes, some while running for president.
The Constitution only names three requirements to run for president; a candidate must be a natural-born citizen, U.S. resident for at least 14 years and at least 35 years old.
Eugene V. Debs
Eugene V. Debs was a labor leader, socialist and five-time presidential candidate, according to a biography in Middle Tennessee State University’s First Amendment Encyclopedia. He ran the fifth election, in 1920, from prison.
Debs was convicted of sedition for a 1918 speech in Canton, Ohio, where he criticized the “Junkers of Wall Street” and the government for arresting anti-World War I activists.
His conviction was handed down a week after Schenck v. United States introduced the “clear and present danger” test, which affirmed that print or spoken word could not be restrained or punished unless it creates a clear and present danger of bringing about a “substantial evil,” according to Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute. The court did not consider whether Debs’ speech posed a “clear and present danger.”
During his 1920 campaign, he ran as “Convict No. 9653.” He garnered nearly 1 million votes, or 3.4% of the popular vote.
Lyndon LaRouche was a conspiracist and political extremist who ran for president eight times from 1976 through 2004, first as a candidate for the now-defunct U.S. Labor Party and later as a Democrat.
He ran his 1992 campaign from a prison cell after a 1988 conviction for mail fraud and conspiracy to defraud the IRS by defaulting on more than $30 million in loans from campaign supporters.
More recently, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry ran for president while under indictment. Perry was indicted in 2014 by a local grand jury following an investigation into whether he withheld millions of dollars from the office of the local district attorney, a Democrat.
In June 2015, he launched his 2016 presidential campaign — his second bid for the nation’s highest office. But just three months later, he dropped out of the race after failing to convince primary voters to give him a second look.
Joe Exotic — the former Oklahoma zookeeper who was made famous by the Netflix show “Tiger King” — on announced a 2024 presidential bid earlier this year, officially filing for candidacy with the Federal Election Commission.
He’s also currently serving a 21-year sentence in federal prison on murder-for-hire charges, convicted of hiring hitmen to kill his chief critic, Carole Baskin, and of crimes involving his animals.
“Yes, I know I am in Federal Prison and you might think this is a joke but it’s not,” Exotic, whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage, wrote on his campaign website. “It is my Constitutional right to do this even from here.”