Trump’s surrender to law enforcement authorities has become by now a familiar election-season routine in a way that belies the unprecedented spectacle of a former president being booked, in four different cities, on felony criminal charges.
But his visit to Atlanta is notably different than the three past surrenders, unfolding at night rather than requiring him to visit a problem-plagued jail — rather than a courthouse — and unfolding not in a liberal bastion like New York or Washington but rather in the heart of a battleground state vital to the 2024 presidential election. And unlike in other cities that did not require him to pose for a mug shot, Fulton County officials have said they expect to take a booking photo as they would any other defendant.
Trump landed in Atlanta shortly after 7 p.m. and was to be driven, through the city’s rush-hour traffic, to jail for the booking process. Wearing his signature white shirt and red tie, he offered a wave and thumbs up as he descended the steps of his private plane.
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 on 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. He’s turned the appearances into campaign events amid a far lighter schedule than his rivals, with staff delighting in wall-to-wall media coverage that has included news helicopters tracking his every move.
The campaign has also used the appearances to solicit fundraising contributions from his supporters as aides paint the charges as part of a politically motivated effort to damage his reelection chances. As Trump was en route from New Jersey to Atlanta, his campaign sent a message saying, “I’m writing to you from Trump Force One, on my way to Atlanta where I will be ARRESTED despite having committed NO CRIME.”
As afternoon turned to evening, scores of Trump supporters had gathered outside the jail where the ex-president was to surrender, some waving flags with Trump’s name, as officials tightened security measures.
District Attorney Fani Willis has given all of the defendants until Friday afternoon to turn themselves in at the main Fulton County jail. On Thursday, her office proposed an October 23 trial date, though the complexities of the 19-person case — and potential scheduling conflicts with other Trump prosecutions — would appear to make it all but impossible. The date seemed to be a response to early legal maneuvering by at least one defendant, Kenneth Chesebro, who requested a speedy trial.
Just ahead of his expected surrender, Trump hired a new lead attorney for the Georgia case.
Prominent Atlanta criminal defense attorney Steve Sadow took the place of another high-profile criminal defense attorney, Drew Findling, who had represented Trump as recently as Monday when his bond terms were negotiated. But by Thursday Findling was no longer part of the team, according to a person with knowledge of the change who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
Sadow, who has represented a rapper, Gunna, who pleaded guilty last year in a racketeering case also brought by Willis, said in a statement that “the president should never have been indicted. He is innocent of all the charges brought against him.”
“We look forward to the case being dismissed or, if necessary, an unbiased, open minded jury finding the president not guilty,” he added. “Prosecutions intended to advance or serve the ambitions and careers of political opponents of the president have no place in our justice system.”
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.
Trump is expected to turn himself in at the Fulton County jail, which 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.
But Trump is not expected to spend much time there.
His attorneys and prosecutors have 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.
When defendants arrive at the jail, they typically pass through a security checkpoint before checking in for formal booking in the lobby. During the booking process, defendants are typically photographed and fingerprinted and asked to provide certain personal information. Since Trump’s bond has already been set, he will be released from custody once the booking process is complete.
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 could have to make two trips 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 allows, or he could waive Trump’s arraignment.