What the Fulton courthouse is like as possible Trump indictment nears

Announcement from DA Fani Willis expected in coming weeks

The pace inside the Fulton County Courthouse was noticeably slower on Monday, ahead of a possible indictment of former President Donald Trump.

The police cruisers and unmarked government SUVs typically parked outside the bustling courthouse were gone, replaced by orange barricades and metal fences erected last week. Fewer people entered the courthouse amid work-from-home orders and delayed proceedings, though some judges held court as usual.

In an upstairs hallway, Fulton deputies questioned a reporter who was peering in courtrooms to see which were in session; trials and court proceedings generally are open to the public.

The Fulton County Sheriff’s Office shut Pryor Street to vehicle traffic outside the courthouse Monday morning, and squad cars with blue lights blocked intersections at either end of the block.

Several news trucks lined up across the street as television reporters — both local and national — camped out under the shade of canopies set up along the sidewalk. For at least the next two weeks, the blocked-off lanes outside the downtown Atlanta courthouse will serve as media parking, officials said.

Inside the courthouse, it seemed like everyone was waiting on something.

The building was open for business as usual but security lines were much shorter. In the hallways, fewer people walked by. On the seventh floor, dozens of Fulton residents were summoned to a jury assembly room ahead of a trial.

District Attorney Fani Willis has said most of her staff members will work remotely between Monday and Aug. 18, and magistrate court hearings will be virtual.

“This remote work will reduce the number of Fulton County District Attorney’s office staff in the Fulton County Courthouse and Government Center by approximately 70%,” Willis said earlier this year in a letter sent to Chief Judge Ural Glanville, who is presiding over the sprawling trial involving Atlanta rapper Young Thug and others. Jury selection in that case continued as normal Monday.

Only Willis’ leadership team, armed investigators and a couple of other teams will be working in the building in coming weeks, the DA’s letter said.

The sheriff’s office, meanwhile, said people will see an increased police presence in coming days. Employee time off is canceled and all deputies are working 12-hour shifts, agency spokeswoman Natalie Ammons said last week.

“It is absolutely all hands on deck but the goal is to keep everyone safe around the courthouse,” she said.

Willis is investigating efforts by Trump and his allies to overturn the results of the 2020 election in Georgia, which he lost to President Joe Biden.

The investigation includes the former president’s phone call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in which he urged the fellow Republican to “find” the 11,780 votes needed to win Georgia.

Sheriff Pat Labat said he sent deputies to Trump’s court proceedings in both New York and Miami to brace for what could happen in downtown Atlanta in the coming days. It’s unclear if the sheriff sent anyone to Washington D.C. for Trump’s most recent court appearance last week.

He told reporters last week that if Trump were to be indicted in Georgia, he would likely be booked and photographed just like any other detainee.

“It doesn’t matter your status. We have a mugshot ready for you,” Labat said, adding, “if an indictment came today, we would be ready.”