By Anita Wadhwani, Tennessee Lookout
Former President Donald Trump was booked and quickly released at the Fulton County Jail during a trip from New Jersey to Atlanta that played out on primetime TV and capped a drama-filled day outside the facility.
Trump’s sprawling motorcade arrived at the jail at about 7:30 p.m. And he was released after about 20 minutes on a $200,000 bond agreement that bars him from threatening or intimidating anyone involved in the case – including on social media where the former president is prolific.
He is accused of violating Georgia’s RICO Act and a litany of other charges tied to efforts to overturn the election in a state where he lost by nearly 12,000 votes.
The Fulton County indictment represents Trump’s fourth this year and the first where his mugshot was taken. He faces 13 charges in Georgia, where he is accused of working with his allies to try to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
Former U.S. President Donald Trump arrives at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on August 24, 2023. Trump surrendered at the Fulton County jail, where was booked on 13 charges related to an alleged plan to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in Georgia. // Joe Raedle/Getty Images via Georgia Recorder
Trump has dismissed the charges as politically motivated and claims he genuinely believed the 2020 presidential election was rigged and stolen. The former president, who is the front-runner in the GOP race to challenge President Joe Biden next year, called the indictments a form of “election interference.”
“We did nothing wrong at all, and we have every right – every single right – to challenge an election that we think is dishonest, and we think it’s very dishonest,” Trump said during brief remarks to some reporters outside the jail Thursday.
But he is accused of taking his challenge too far. The Fulton County indictment handed up by a grand jury last week alleges that Trump and 18 others were part of a “criminal organization” that tried to illegally overturn the 2020 election results through a fake elector plot.
Twelve of the 19 defendants have been booked this week, including the surrender of Trump’s former chief of staff, Mark Meadows, earlier in the day Thursday. Trump’s former personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, turned himself in Wednesday.
The remaining seven, including a state senator who served as an “alternate” elector, have until noon Friday to surrender.
Read the 98-page indictment here.
Georgia’s election results were confirmed three times, including one recount that was done by hand. A state-led investigation and multiple lawsuits also failed to turn up the widespread fraud Trump has long falsely claimed thwarted his bid for a second term. Trump’s own Attorney General in 2020 told the former president that he’d lost Georgia’s election and there was no evidence of fraud.
Thursday also brought a flurry of legal filings about the venue for some of the defendants and the pace of the trial.
A Georgia state judge has scheduled an Oct. 23 racketeering trial for Kenneth Chesebro, who was an attorney for the Trump campaign. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis asked the judge, Scott McAfee, Thursday to schedule the trial for all 19 defendants on that date, an unexpectedly quick turnaround Willis proposed in response to Chesebro’s demand for a speedy trial.
McAfee ruled Thursday the trial date would only apply to Chesebro.
Chesebro is accused of violating Georgia’s RICO Act and committing other offenses as part of a scheme to appoint false electors. In Georgia he allegedly supplied the documents alternate GOP electors signed that said they appropriately cast the state’s 16 electoral ballots for Trump.
‘I have seen no real crime’
Outside the jail, Trump’s fans outnumbered his critics as his most ardent backers traveled from all over the country to line up along Rice Street in a show of support. A throng of reporters from all over the world gathered outside the county jail to observe the historic moment.
Many of Trump’s fans said the former president’s growing rap sheet – on top of two impeachment proceedings – is only making them more skeptical of the claims of his wrongdoing.
West Cobb County resident Jerry Ramsey. // Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder
“Racketeering is about stealing money and stuff like that. That makes no sense,” said west Cobb County resident Jerry Ramsey, citing legal experts who have appeared on Fox News. “If you show me that some real crime was committed, then I might change my mind. But I have seen no real crime.”
Ramsey argues that Trump did what anyone else would do after coming up short in an election.
“Here in Georgia, he just called and said ‘Would y’all recount the vote?’ If I lost an election, I’d do the same thing,” he said.
Ray Worth, who lives in Carroll County, said he came out Thursday to “support freedom, the ability for us to speak freely.” He called Trump “an advocate for free speech.”
Worth said he doesn’t expect any evidence to come out that will convince him that Trump ran afoul of the law. He argues Trump was simply questioning the election results.
“You’re allowed to do that. This is a free country. It’s called freedom. You’re allowed to say what you feel is actually true. I believe what I feel is true, and he does too,” Worth said.
Trump’s brief jailhouse visit capped a long, intensely hot August day filled with circus-like energy. Some people were wearing costumes, including multiple “Uncle Sams” and some rats and a wolf that represented the anti-Trump crowd.
Several hours prior to the anticipated arrival of former President Trump, protesters were squaring off with dueling chants and shouting verbal jabs at one another. The sometimes-profane chants included calls to lock up Biden and Trump.
During the late afternoon, members of the Black Trump group were joined by self-proclaimed Mayor of Magaville rapper Forgiato Blow and others for an impromptu jam session featuring songs like Blow’s “Trump Saved the USA.”
Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene showed up at the jail as Trump’s plane was landing at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, fresh off her trip to Wisconsin to serve as a surrogate for Trump at the first GOP presidential debate that he snubbed.
Greene swapped out her profile on social media with a mock mugshot in a show of solidarity, she told Right Side Broadcasting Network, a conservative network. “I’m ashamed of Georgia,” Greene said in the friendly interview.
But it wasn’t all Trump supporters outside the county jail on Rice Street.
One anti-Trump group outside the jail on Thursday was the Republicans Against Trump, also known as RAT. Its members wore black and white striped prison jumpsuits and full rat costumes. Their leader, Domenic Santana, said they want to see Trump held accountable for attempting to disrupt Georgia’s election process.
Meanwhile, Nadine Seiler flew down this week from Maryland to witness the historic arrest of Trump.
One of the few anti-Trump demonstrators to show up Thursday led to testy verbal confrontations with Trump supporters as she carried a banner proclaiming “Finally, Trump Arrested.”
“He tried to steal the vote of Black and brown people,” Seiler said. “That’s why he’s here because he tried to disenfranchise Black and brown voters.”
There were a number of anti-Trump protestors but they were outnumbered by the pro-Trump crowd. // Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder
Georgia Recorder Editor John McCosh contributed to this report.
Jill Nolin has spent nearly 15 years reporting on state and local government in four states, focusing on policy and political stories and tracking public spending. She has spent the last five years chasing stories in the halls of Georgia’s Gold Dome, earning recognition for her work showing the impact of rising opioid addiction on the state’s rural communities. She is a graduate of Troy University.
Ross Williams, before joining the Georgia Recorder, covered local and state government for the Marietta Daily Journal. His work earned recognition from the Georgia Associated Press Media Editors and the Georgia Press Association, including beat reporting, business writing and non-deadline reporting.
Stanley Dunlap has covered government and politics for news outlets in Georgia and Tennessee for the past decade. The Georgia Associated Press Managing Editors named Stanley a finalist for best deadline reporting. The Tennessee Press Association honored him for his reporting on the disappearance of Holly Bobo.
The Georgia Recorder is an independent, nonprofit news organization that is focused on connecting public policies to stories of the people and communities affected by them. We bring a fresh perspective to coverage of the state’s biggest issues from our office a few blocks from Georgia’s Gold Dome. Our perch might be near the Capitol in downtown Atlanta, but the communities we care about are found in all corners of Georgia, from the mountains of Blue Ridge to the flatlands of Bainbridge.
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