Trump booked at Atlanta jail on election charges, heads home
ATLANTA - Donald Trump left an Atlanta jail after he was booked on more than a dozen felony charges on Thursday as part of a wide-ranging criminal case stemming from the former U.S. president's attempts to overturn his 2020 election defeat in Georgia.
Authorities had said they expected to take Trump's mug shot at Fulton County Jail - a first for Trump, who did not have to sit for a photograph when making initial appearances in three other criminal cases.
Trump's motorcade left the jail about 20 minutes after entering and headed toward Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson airport, where his private jet was waiting to ferry him back to his New Jersey golf club.
Trump, 77, already has entered uncharted territory as the first former U.S. president to face criminal charges, though the four cases filed against him have not damaged his front-runner status in the race for the Republican nomination to challenge Democratic President Joe Biden in the November 2024 election.
Dozens of supporters, waving Trump banners and American flags, jostled for a glimpse as Trump arrived at the jail. Among the Trump backers gathered outside was Georgia U.S. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, one of the former president's most loyal congressional allies.
Lyle Rayworth, 49, who is in the aviation industry in the Atlanta area, had been waiting near the jailhouse for 10 hours, since early on Thursday.
"Yeah, I'm hoping he sees me waving the flags, showing support," Rayworth said as he awaited Trump's arrival. "He needs us."
The mug shot adds Trump to the ranks of gangster Al Capone, crooner Frank Sinatra and other high-profile Americans who have posed for jailhouse photographs.
The image is certain to be circulated widely by Trump's foes and supporters alike.
"We want to put it on a T-shirt. It will go worldwide. It will be a more popular image than the Mona Lisa," said Laura Loomer, 30, a Republican former congressional candidate who mingled with other Trump supporters outside the jail on Thursday morning.
Earlier in the day, Judge Scott McAfee set a trial date of Oct. 23 for one of Trump's 18 co-defendants, attorney Kenneth Chesebro, after Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis proposed that date in response to Chesebro's request for a speedy trial. The judge's order said the schedule does not yet apply to Trump or any of the other defendants.
At least 10 of his co-defendants already have been booked. Some, like Rudolph Giuliani, the former New York mayor, were stone-faced in their mug shots, while others, such as lawyer Jenna Ellis, smiled for the camera.
All 19 defendants face a Friday deadline to surrender. Court records showed that Mark Meadows, who served as Trump's White House chief of staff, was processed at the jail on Thursday.
The jail has a reputation for grim conditions that have inspired rap songs and prompted an investigation by the U.S. Justice Department.
Trump faces 13 felony counts in the Georgia case, including racketeering, which is typically used to target organized crime, for pressuring state officials to reverse his election loss and setting up an illegitimate slate of electors to undermine the formal congressional certification of Biden's 2020 victory.
TRIAL DATE WRANGLING
Willis originally proposed a trial date of March 4 but moved it up for Chesebro after he asked that his trial start by October. Trump's legal team has not yet proposed a date but is expected to push for a much later start. On Thursday, his newest Atlanta lawyer, Steven Sadow, asked for Trump to be tried separately from Chesebro.
Trump has pleaded not guilty in the three other cases. He has denied wrongdoing and has called all the cases politically motivated.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg filed the first case, accusing Trump of falsifying business records to hide hush money payments to a porn star who claims to have had a sexual encounter with him years ago.
Trump also faces two sets of federal charges brought by Special Counsel Jack Smith - one case in Washington involving election interference and one in Miami involving classified documents he retained after leaving office in 2021. He faces 91 criminal counts in total.
Trump agreed to post US$200,000 bond and accepted bail conditions that would bar him from threatening witnesses or his co-defendants in the Georgia case.
Republicans who control the U.S. House of Representatives said on Thursday they would investigate whether Willis improperly coordinated with federal prosecutors. They previously launched an investigation of Bragg, who accused them of a "campaign of intimidation."
On Wednesday, Trump's leading rivals in the race for the Republican presidential nomination met in Milwaukee for their first debate. Trump skipped that event, instead sitting for a pre-taped interview with conservative commentator Tucker Carlson aimed at siphoning away viewers.
"I've been indicted four times - all trivial nonsense," Trump told Carlson.
(Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta and Andy Sullivan in Washington; Additional reporting by David Ljunggren, Jack Queen, Jacqueline Thomsen, Kanishka Singh and Rami Ayyub; Writing by Andy Sullivan and Joseph Ax; Editing by Will Dunham, Scott Malone, Daniel Wallis and Howard Goller)