Trump makes history by surrendering at Fulton jail

Dozens gathered to watch unprecedented event unfold in Atlanta
Former President Donald Trump spoke to reporters at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport after surrendering at the Fulton County jail in Atlanta on Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023. (Doug Mills/The New York Times)

Credit: NYT

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Former President Donald Trump spoke to reporters at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport after surrendering at the Fulton County jail in Atlanta on Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023. (Doug Mills/The New York Times)

Credit: NYT

Atlanta witnessed history Thursday as former President Donald Trump was booked into the Fulton County Jail on charges that he engineered a vast conspiracy with 18 allies to overturn his 2020 election defeat in Georgia.

The Republican’s lengthy motorcade wound its way past dozens of curious bystanders before pulling up to the Rice Street facility, setting up a dramatic moment that yielded the first mug shot of a former president in U.S. history.

Trump appeared only briefly in the jail before he was released on a $200,000 bond that his former attorneys and Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis agreed on last week.

He gave a thumbs-up to supporters as he left and spoke briefly to reporters on the tarmac at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport before boarding his plane.

“It’s a very sad day for America,” said Trump, who insisted once again that the 2020 election was “rigged” and “stolen.”

Credit: Fulton County Sheriff's Office

Credit: Fulton County Sheriff's Office

“We did nothing wrong at all,” he added. “We have every right, every single right, to challenge an election we think is dishonest.”

Minutes after his plane took off, his mug shot was released by the sheriff’s office, an image of a scowling Trump peering at the lens.

It was Trump’s fourth booking on criminal charges this year, and in some sense it felt more routine than remarkable as the former president’s parade to law enforcement authorities has become a hauntingly familiar site.

But it also stood out from the past surrenders in Miami, New York and Washington. It brought him to a jail under review by the Department of Justice and plagued by crowding and numerous inmate deaths, in a political battleground where he’s faced some of his most devastating electoral setbacks, with his defeat not just in the 2020 election but also failures to pull his hand-picked candidates to victories in 2021 and 2022.

And while Trump could seek to halt the federal investigations against him if he prevails in his comeback bid, or seek to pardon himself, in Georgia the trial will move forward regardless of the 2024 outcome.

Bombast and history

Shortly before his arrival at the jail, Trump abruptly revamped his legal team, replacing Drew Findling with veteran defense attorney Steve Sadow as his top lawyer in Atlanta. And he sought to sever his case from co-defendant Kenneth Chesebro, an attorney who was granted a speedy trial demand for an Oct. 23 court date.

Noon Friday is the surrender deadline announced by Willis, who brought the charges after an investigation that stretched for more than two years and involved dozens of witnesses. Trump’s bond arrangement prohibits him from intimidating witnesses or co-defendants in speeches or on social media posts, a pointed warning about his history of online attacks.

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

In a Truth Social post announcing his plans to show up at the jail for his booking, Trump fumed that Willis was prosecuting him for “A PERFECT PHONE CALL.”

The bombast echoed the often chaotic scene outside the jail starting early Thursday, as Trump supporters and dozens of reporters convened to bear witness to the unprecedented moment. Dozens of protesters bickered amid the sweltering heat outside the jail, loudly arguing, blowing ram’s-horn trumpets and even demonstrating in rat costumes.

The “Big Bad Wolf” from South Atlanta showed up in a furry mask and with a sign declaring that while he had huffed and puffed and blown down houses, Trump “tried to blow down democracy.” Trump fans in red MAGA hats countered by hoisting colorful flags emblazoned with the Republican’s name while blasting his critics.

Lala Cochran of Virginia-Highland detoured from her daily bike route just so she could take in the scene.

“I just kind of wanted to see the circus,” she said as a group of Republicans Against Trump protesters dressed as rats waded into the crowd.

Trump fires back

Meanwhile, in the state Capitol and halls of Congress, pro-Trump forces stepped up efforts to punish Willis and sideline her far-ranging indictment as the legal battle over the sweeping criminal charges intensified.

State Sen. Colton Moore, a Trump loyalist, showed up unexpectedly to the jail on Thursday to promote his doomed effort to force a special legislative session that could oust Willis.

And in Washington, the Republican-controlled House Judiciary Committee opened a formal inquiry seeking documents outlining how Willis’ office is funded and details of her interactions with federal officials.

But there were also signs of support for Willis at the jail and beyond. Some people planned parties to celebrate Trump’s arrests. Kimberly Wallace of Riverdale said she couldn’t pass up a chance to join the crowd outside the lockup.

“We are witnessing history,” she said. “And I just don’t understand why there aren’t more people here in support of Fani Willis. Even though I’m supposed to be getting my hair done now, I’m here for her.”



Trump’s surrender came a day after his top Republican rivals shared a stage in Milwaukee for the first GOP debate of the 2024 campaign, an event the former president skipped as polls show him with a dominant lead in his comeback attempt.

Even though it was a Trump-free event, the former president’s legal problems still shaped the two-hour debate as his rivals tried to differentiate themselves to make up ground in the polls. Most said they would still back Trump even if he’s convicted.

Trump’s polling strength has increased in some states since prosecutors announced indictments against him in Miami, New York, Washington and Atlanta. In all, Trump faces 91 felony charges across the four criminal cases that could carry dozens of years of prison time.

In Atlanta, the indictments accuse Trump and allies of a sprawling effort to reverse Democrat Joe Biden’s narrow victory in the 2020 election, an alleged conspiracy that stretches from the halls of the state Capitol to a rural Georgia elections board to conference rooms in other battleground states.



The defendants are accused of engaging in a “criminal enterprise” to reverse the results by lying to state lawmakers, gathering pro-Trump fake electors to circumvent his defeat, intimidating election workers, breaching voting machines in Coffee County and engaging in a coverup.

Trump and his co-defendants, including former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and ex-Georgia GOP chair David Shafer, have said they are victims of a corrupt justice system.

AJC staff writers Shaddi Abusaid, Tamar Hallerman, Zachary Hansen, Evan Lasseter, Jozsef Papp, Bill Rankin, Shahid Meighan and Olivia Wakim contributed to this report.