The defendant listed as inmate number PO1135809 stared down the barrel of a jail officer’s camera, his large brows knitted into in a frown, his yellow hair catching the light.
It was Donald Trump, the former president of the United States, a man with one of the most famous faces in the world, now appearing in a mugshot taken in the Fulton county jail.
Trump was dressed, as usual, in a dark suit, white shirt and red tie. His orange complexion appeared a little paler and he looked out in the mugshot from beneath a sweep of pale gold hair.
The image was released into the world about an hour after Trump himself was released from the jail, after posting a $200,000 bond. He had been arrested on 13 counts relating to an attempt to overthrow the 2020 election in Georgia.
He rode out of the gates in the back of a large black car and as he left, he turned in the back of the car to the ranks of photographers waiting outside and gave a thumbs-up.
“I really believe it’s a very sad day for America,” Trump said when he arrived at the airport. “I thought the election was a rigged election, it was a stolen election, and I had every right to [challenge] it.”
The former president had bowled into town on a humid evening as a large orange sun sank beneath mountains of white cloud and lit the wings of the Fulton county jail. An escort of 19 motorcycles rode ahead of him through a scrubby industrial patch of northwestern Atlanta — one, it seemed, for each defendant charged in the case by the county’s district attorney, Fani Willis.
The motorcade passed down a long, straight avenue lined with warehouses, towering electricity pylons and small trees with pink blossoms. Ahead of Trump’s arrival, heavy-set men from the sheriff’s department lined the way too, gripping the straps of their padded vests while an officer, more lightly dressed and her nails painted a bright shade of blue, choreographed the entrance.
The previous evening, an interview Trump had given to the former Fox News host Tucker Carlson had been broadcast on social media, just as Trump’s rivals for the Republican nomination were meeting on stage in Milwaukee for a television debate he had shunned.
Trump boasted that his interview had attracted 231 million views on social media and claimed that this made it “the Biggest Video on Social Media, EVER, more than double the Super Bowl!” — though the figure related to those who may have seen the post rather than those who actually watched the video. “But please excuse me,” he added in a post on his own platform, Truth Social. “I have to start getting ready to head down to Atlanta, Georgia, where Murder and other Violent Crimes have reached levels never seen before, to get ARRESTED by a Radical Left, Lowlife District Attorney, Fani Willis, for A PERFECT PHONE CALL, and having the audacity to challenge a RIGGED & STOLEN ELECTION.”
Trump also posted the mugshot to his 86.5 million followers on Twitter, now known as X, in his first use of his account since it was restored last November by Elon Musk after its suspension by the site’s previous owners following the Capitol riot by his supporters on January 6, 2021.
For those anxious to catch the moment on television, or by turning up to the jail in person, he added: “Arrest Time: 7.30pm.” He arrived at 7.33pm, pulling through wide gates that had swung open moments earlier, passing beyond high wire fences capped with barbed wire.
Trump’s lawyers were said to have negotiated that time slot for his arrest, with an eye to how it would play on primetime television. “Anyone else would be slinking in at 3.30 in the morning with a bag over their head,” said Stan Simberg, 71, a former writer for the satirical publication Mad Magazine, who was standing outside the jail selling politically-themed badges. “He announces he’s coming down here during primetime. He wants the exposure!”
He added: “I’m most excited to see his weight.” The sheriff’s office was expected to record his weight and height, along with his mugshot. “His doctor lists it at 235lb,” Simberg said. “But he’s got to be at least 275lb.”
Simberg was to be disappointed. Trump had reported his weight to the jail as 215lb. This implied that he has lost 29lb since his last presidential physical, according to CNN. The network also reported that Trump had been obliged to engage a bail bonds service to help him post a cash bond of $200,000, putting up ten per cent of the sum himself.
Simberg had come with a cart he calls “the Roving Anti-Trumpism Band-Wagon”, setting up shop on a crowded grass bank across the road from one of the entrances to the jail. He began selling anti-Trump badges a few months before Trump’s election, in 2016. “Mine was the first job that Trump created,” he said. In honour of the former president’s arrest in Atlanta, he had designed a new badge featuring the face of Fani Willis, the district attorney, and the slogan “Fani The Flames Of Freedom”.
But he found himself greatly outnumbered outside the jail by supporters of the former president who were not inclined to spend $4 on a badge featuring the late liberal Supreme Court judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg, or one marking the anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington.
Among them was the Georgia congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, who appeared among a crush of supporters. Occasionally a debate broke out between rival camps. “Prove it in court!” one man shouted as a Trump supporter argued that there had been fraud during the 2020 election. “That’s all you got to do. Prove it in court.”
Courts dismissed dozens of lawsuits filed in the aftermath of the election advancing fraud claims. The election results in Georgia were upheld after two recounts and a lawsuit filed by the Trump-aligned lawyer Sidney Powell was dismissed. Powell is now one of 18 co-defendants alongside Trump and turned herself in on Wednesday.
While many defendants who turn themselves in to Fulton county are detained for a while in a holding cell, Trump’s stay inside the barbed wire fences lasted only 22 minutes. Shortly before 8pm, as the sun sank behind a cluster of dark trees outside a halfway house beside the jail, the motorcade passed out through the gates. In the back of a large black car with tinted windows, spectators could just make out Trump turning to face them, appearing as it were through a glass darkly, flashing the thumbs-up sign.
“I did nothing wrong,” he said at the airport before boarding his plane. “Everybody knows it. I’ve never had such support.” He added: “So thank you all very much and I’ll see you very soon.”
Upcoming dates in US calendar
Early September (TBC): Donald Trump and 18 co-defendants appear in court in Atlanta for arraignment in the Georgia election conspiracy case
September 27: Second Republican TV debate in California
October 2: Start of civil fraud trial in New York seeking damages against Trump, his two elder sons and his company for misrepresenting valuations for tax purposes
January 2: Proposed date by prosecutors for start of Trump’s federal trial for election interference in Washington DC
January 15: Iowa Caucus, the first vote on the Republican field; start of E Jean Carroll’s second defamation case against Trump in Manhattan
Late January (TBC): New Hampshire primary election
January 29: Trial due to start in federal class-action lawsuit accusing Trump and his company of running a pyramid scheme
February 6: Nevada primary
February 27: Michigan primary
March 4: Proposed date for start of trial in Georgia election conspiracy case
March 5: Super Tuesday, when 14 states hold primary elections
March 25: Start of Trump’s New York State criminal trial for alleged hush money payments
May 20: Start of Trump’s federal trial in Florida for retaining secret documents
July 15: Start of Republican National Convention in Milwaukee
November 5: US presidential election
(Source: The Times)