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Trump reports to Atlanta jail for processing

Ex-president turns self in on election-scheme charges by Compiled by Democrat-Gazette staff from wire reports | August 25, 2023 at 5:10 a.m.
Donald Trump speaks to reporters Thursday before boarding his private plane at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, where he turned himself in at the Fulton County jail earlier in the evening. (The New York Times/Doug Mills)

ATLANTA -- A scowling Donald Trump posed for a mug shot Thursday as he surrendered inside a jail in Atlanta on charges that he illegally schemed to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia, creating a historic and humbling visual underscoring the former president's escalating legal troubles.

The booking photo instantly becomes part of the former president's legacy as he confronts criminal charges in four American cities while seeking to reclaim the White House. His aides swiftly seized on the image, fundraising off the first mug shot in American history of a former president as representative of the unfair persecution they contend Trump is encountering. His opponents, meanwhile, are likely to use it to remind voters of dangers in electing a president facing dozens of felony charges.

Trump was released on $200,000 bond and headed back to the airport for his return flight home to New Jersey, flashing a thumbs-up through the window of his sport utility vehicle as his motorcade left. Unrepentant but subdued after the brief jail visit, he again insisted that he "did nothing wrong" and called the case accusing him of subverting election results a "travesty of justice."

"If you challenge an election, you should be able to challenge an election," he told reporters on the airport tarmac.

Trump's surrender to law enforcement authorities, the fourth time this year, has by now become a familiar election-season routine in a way that belies the unprecedented spectacle of a former president, and current candidate, being booked on criminal charges. But his visit to Atlanta was notably different from the three past surrenders, unfolding at night and requiring him to visit a problem-plagued jail -- rather than a courthouse.

And unlike in other cities that did not require him to pose for a mug shot, a booking photo of him was taken. It depicts Trump, wearing a navy suit and red tie, angrily scowling at the camera, his brows furrowed as he stares into the lens.

Before Trump's plane had crossed North Carolina, his campaign was already using the image to solicit contributions on a fundraising site. And for the first time since Jan. 8, 2021, he made a post on X, the website formerly known as Twitter, making a fundraising plea on the platform that prevented him from using his account after the violent riot at the U.S. Capitol.

"This mugshot will forever go down in history as a symbol of America's defiance of tyranny," said a Trump campaign fundraising email.

His jail visit created a remarkable split-screen visual during a 2024 Republican primary contest in which he remains the leading candidate, coming one day after a debate in Milwaukee where eight of his leading rivals sought to exploit Trump's absence by standing out from the pack.

Trump landed in Atlanta shortly after 7 p.m. and was driven to jail for the booking process. He offered a wave and thumbs-up as he descended the steps of his private plane.

He completed the process in a brisk 20 minutes, providing officials as is customary with his physical measurements: 6 foot 3 inches. 215 pounds. Blond or strawberry hair. And Trump, who for four years reveled in the title of "Mr. President," was given the inmate number of P01135809.

The Fulton County prosecution is the fourth criminal case against Trump since March, when he became the first former president in U.S. history to be indicted. Since then, he's faced federal charges in Florida and Washington, and this month he was indicted in Atlanta with 18 others -- including his ex-chief of staff, Mark Meadows, and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani -- under a racketeering statute normally associated with gang members and organized crime.

Giuliani surrendered Wednesday and posed for a mug shot. Meadows, who had sought to avoid having to turn himself in while he seeks to move the case to federal court, turned himself in Thursday. Bond was set at $100,000.

The criminal cases have spurred a succession of bookings and arraignments, with Trump making brief court appearances before returning to the 2024 campaign trail.

District Attorney Fani Willis had given all of the defendants until this afternoon to turn themselves in at the main Fulton County jail.


Just ahead of his expected surrender, Trump hired a new lead attorney, Steve Sadow, for the Georgia case.

Trump had been represented for the past year by a trio of other attorneys -- Drew Findling, Marissa Goldberg and Jennifer Little -- who had spent recent months trying to disqualify Willis, a Democrat, and her office from prosecuting the former president and to quash evidence gathered by a special-purpose grand jury in the case.

On Monday, Findling, Goldberg and Little negotiated Trump's $200,000 consent bond and signed the document outlining his release conditions. But they had not yet filed formal notice in the docket as Trump's representatives in the case.

As of Thursday, Findling, who had been Trump's lead counsel in Georgia, was no longer part of the team, according to a person familiar with Trump's legal strategy who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the change. It was not immediately clear if Goldberg, who is Findling's legal partner, or Little remained on the case.

Sadow, Findling, Goldberg and Little did not respond to requests for comment.

Sadow, whose website describes him as a "special counsel for white collar and high profile defense," is well known in Atlanta legal circles with a roster of prominent clients including the rap artists Rick Ross and T.I. and the singer Usher.

Most recently, Sadow represented the hip-hop star Gunna in another sprawling criminal racketeering case, this one involving the rapper Young Thug, being prosecuted by Willis' office and expected to go to trial in coming months. Gunna, whose real name is Sergio Kitchens, reached a plea deal in that case.

Like Findling, Sadow has been a critic of Georgia's anti-racketeering statute, which is far broader than federal law, and has suggested prosecutors in the state have been overusing the law to charge cases.

Sadow quickly went to work Thursday, signaling Trump's opposition to a motion from Willis suggesting an Oct. 23 trial date for the former president and his co-defendants in the case.

Sadow said in a statement that "the president should never have been indicted. He is innocent of all the charges brought against him."

It's not the first time this year that Trump has shaken up his legal team either in the run-up to an indictment or in the immediate aftermath. One of his lead lawyers, Tim Parlatore, left the legal team weeks before Trump was indicted in Florida on charges of illegally hoarding classified documents, citing conflicts with a top Trump adviser. Two other lawyers, James Trusty and John Rowley, announced their resignations the morning after that indictment was returned.

Trump has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing. He said in a social media post this week that he was being prosecuted for what he described in capital letters as a "perfect phone call" in which he asked the Republican secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, to help him "find 11,780 votes" for him to overturn his loss in the state to Democrat Joe Biden.

The Fulton County jail where Trump surrendered has long been a troubled facility. The Justice Department last month opened a civil rights investigation into conditions, citing filthy cells, violence and the death last year of a man whose body was found covered in insects in the main jail's psychiatric wing. Three people have died in Fulton County custody in the past month.

He did not spend much time there. His attorneys and prosecutors had already agreed to a $200,000 bond, plus conditions that include barring the former president from intimidating co-defendants, witnesses or victims in the case.

Charles Shaw, CEO of Foster Bail Bonds in metro Atlanta, said his company put up Trump's $200,000 bond. Shaw said Trump paid his company 10% -- or $20,000 -- which is customary for bail bondsmen to charge. Shaw said he doesn't know Trump, but that Trump's Atlanta defense attorneys have a close business relationship with his company.

Unlike in other jurisdictions, in Fulton County, arraignments -- in which a defendant appears in court for the first time -- generally happen after a defendant surrenders at the jail and completes the booking process, not on the same day.

That means Trump may have to make another trip to Georgia in the coming weeks, though the Fulton County sheriff's office has said some arraignments in the case may happen virtually if the judge permits. Or Trump's arraignment could be waived.


House Republicans took aim Thursday at Willis, moving to investigate the woman pursuing the case just hours before Trump was to be booked.

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, announced he was opening an inquiry into Willis, questioning whether she had collaborated with Biden administration officials and targeting any federal funding her office receives.

Trump is charged with 13 felony counts in Georgia in an indictment that accuses him of engaging in a "criminal enterprise" that sought to overturn his 2020 election loss. Trump's final White House chief of staff, Meadows, is also a former House Republican and close friend of Jordan's.

In a letter to Willis sent Thursday, Jordan accused her of carrying out a politically motivated prosecution.

"Turning first to the question of motivation, it is noteworthy that just four days before this indictment, you launched a new campaign fundraising website that highlighted your investigation into President Trump," he wrote.

Jordan said he was demanding all documents and communications among Willis' office and federal officials and any relating to the Fulton County district attorney's office's use of federal funds. A review of budget documents indicates most of the office's funding comes from local government, though prosecutors' offices often receive at least some federal grant money.

Information for this article was contributed by Eric Tucker, Kate Brumback, Jill Colvin and Sudhin Thanawala of The Associated Press; Holly Bailey, Amy Gardner and Josh Dawsey of The Washington Post; and Luke Broadwater of The New York Times.

  photo  An official stands guard in front of the Fulton County Jail in Atlanta on Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023. (AP Photo/Ben Gray)
  photo  Officials set up barriers in front of the Fulton County jail as supporters of former President Donald Trump gather, Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023. (AP Photo/Ben Gray)
  photo  The Fulton County Jail is shown April 11, 2023, in Atlanta. Former President Donald Trump says he will surrender to authorities in Georgia on Thursday, Aug 24, to face charges in the case accusing him of illegally scheming to overturn his 2020 election loss in the state. (AP Photo/Kate Brumback)
  photo  A police officers stands in the road as a motorcade for former President Donald Trump arrives to Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark, N.J., Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
  photo  Former President Donald Trump speaks with reporters before departure from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
  photo  Former President Donald Trump steps off his plane as he arrives at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023, in Atlanta. Trump is headed to the Fulton County Jail. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
  photo  Former President Donald Trump speaks with reporters before departure from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
  photo  The motorcade with former President Donald Trump travels to the Fulton County Jail, Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
  photo  This booking photo provided by Fulton County Sheriff's Office, shows former President Donald Trump on Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023, after he surrendered and was booked at the Fulton County Jail in Atlanta. Trump is accused by District Attorney Fani Willis of scheming to subvert the will of Georgia voters in a desperate bid to keep Joe Biden out of the White House. (Fulton County Sheriff's Office via AP)

  photo  The motorcade with former President Donald Trump travels to the Fulton County jail in Atlanta on Thursday. (AP/Alex Brandon)

  photo  Former President Donald Trump’s plane prepares to take off Thursday from Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark, N.J. (AP/Seth Wenig)

  Gallery: Trump booked in Fulton County, Georgia

Print Headline: Trump visits jail in Atlanta for processing


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