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Trump mug shot shows scowling ex-president during booking at Atlanta jail

Aug 25, 2023, 5:01 AM | Updated: 5:22 am

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Former President Donald Trump. (Photo courtesy of Fulton County Sheriff's Office)

(Photo courtesy of Fulton County Sheriff's Office)

A scowling Donald Trump posed for a mug shot Thursday as he surrendered inside a jail in Atlanta on charges that he illegally schemed to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia, creating a historic and humbling visual underscoring the former president’s escalating legal troubles.

The booking photo instantly becomes part of the former president’s legacy as he confronts criminal charges in four American cities while seeking to reclaim the White House. His aides swiftly seized on the image, fundraising off the first mug shot in American history of a former president as representative of the unfair persecution they contend Trump is encountering. His opponents, meanwhile, are likely to use it to remind voters of dangers in electing a president facing dozens of felony charges.

Trump was released on $200,000 bond and headed back to the airport for his return flight home to New Jersey, flashing a thumbs-up through the window of his sport utility vehicle as his motorcade left. Unrepentant but subdued after the brief jail visit, he again insisted that he “did nothing wrong” and called the case accusing him of subverting election results a “travesty of justice.”

“If you challenge an election, you should be able to challenge an election,” he told reporters on the airport tarmac.

Trump’s surrender to law enforcement authorities, the fourth time this year, has by now become a familiar election-season routine in a way that belies the unprecedented spectacle of a former president, and current candidate, being booked on criminal charges. But his visit to Atlanta was notably different from the three past surrenders, unfolding at night and requiring him to visit a problem-plagued jail — rather than a courthouse.

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And unlike in other cities that did not require him to pose for a mug shot, a booking photo of him was taken. It depicts Trump, wearing a navy suit and red tie, angrily scowling at the camera, his brows furrowed as he stares into the lens.

“The media frenzy around President Trump’s appearance today in Fulton County, Georgia, is more about political theater than serious public policy. It has no direct connection to the lives of regular people in Washington,” Washington State Republican Party Chairman Jim Walsh said in a statement to KIRO Newsradio ahead of Trump’s booking. “We’re focused on fighting homicide and other violent crimes, improving the basic education our K-12 schools provide children and repealing the state cap-and-trade tax scheme that’s driven the prices of gas and diesel way up. People in (Washington) don’t care about east coast political dramas. They want to fix what’s broken in their neighborhoods.”

KIRO Newsradio has reached out to the Washington State Democratic Party. The organization declined a request for comment.

Before Trump’s plane had crossed North Carolina, his campaign was already using the image to solicit contributions on a fundraising site. And for the first time since Jan. 8, 2021, he made a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, making a fundraising plea on the platform that prevented him from using his account after he helped spark the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

“This mugshot will forever go down in history as a symbol of America’s defiance of tyranny,” said a Trump campaign fundraising email.

His jail visit created a remarkable split-screen visual during a 2024 Republican primary contest in which he remains the leading candidate, coming one day after a debate in Milwaukee where eight of his leading rivals sought to exploit Trump’s absence by standing out from the pack.

Despite so much attention being levied on Trump’s arrest in Georgia and his subsequent mug shot, political strategist Ron Dotzauer, the CEO of Strategies 360, said it probably won’t change his lead in GOP primary polls.

“Unless something else dramatic, and I mean dramatic, turns around, I’m not even sure a conviction in some of these cases will actually move this constituency from Republican primary base,” Dotzauer said to KIRO Newsradio.

Dotzauer added that his competitors for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024 did nothing to help their causes.

“The politics in this for him doesn’t seem to change a thing …” Dotzauer said to KIRO Newsradio. “I didn’t see or hear a thing last night from the other pretenders that would take away from his position within the Republican primary.”

Trump landed in Atlanta shortly after 7 p.m. Thursday and was driven to jail for the booking process. He offered a wave and thumbs up as he descended the steps of his private plane.

He completed the process in a brisk 20 minutes, providing officials as is customary with his physical measurements: 6 foot 3 inches. 215 pounds. Blond or strawberry hair. And Trump, who for four years reveled in the title of “Mr. President,” was given the inmate number of P01135809.

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.

District Attorney Fani Willis had given all of the defendants until Friday afternoon to turn themselves in at the main Fulton County jail.

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Just ahead of his 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 said in a statement that “the president should never have been indicted. He is innocent of all the charges brought against him.”

Trump’s surrender to law enforcement authorities has become by now a familiar routine in a way that belies the history-making drama of a former president being booked on felony criminal charges. But his visit to Atlanta is notably different than the three past surrenders, requiring him to visit a jail — rather than a courthouse — and unfolding not in a liberal bastion like New York or Washington but rather the heart of a battleground state vital to the 2024 presidential election.

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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.

Trump has repeatedly denied 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.

The Fulton County jail where Trump surrendered 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.

He did not spend much time there. His attorneys and prosecutors had 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.

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Charles Shaw, CEO of Foster Bail Bonds in metro Atlanta, said his company put up Trump’s $200,000 bond. Shaw said Trump paid his company 10% — or $20,000 — which is customary for bail bondsmen to charge. Shaw said he doesn’t know Trump, but that Trump’s Atlanta defense attorneys have a close business relationship with his company.

That means Trump may have to make another trip 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 permits. Or Trump’s arraignment could be waived.

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.

Contributing: The Associated Press; Sam Campbell, KIRO Newsradio; Steve Coogan

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