Donald Trump is to surrender on racketeering charges and likely have his mugshot taken at a Georgia jail on Thursday, setting the stage for a fourth criminal trial next year as he bids to reclaim the White House.
The 77-year-old former president will be arrested at Atlanta’s notorious Fulton County Jail, accused of conspiring with 18 co-defendants to try to overturn the 2020 election result in the key southern state.
The booking of the billionaire real estate tycoon in his fourth and final indictment sets up a year of unprecedented courtroom drama as he tries to balance appearing in the dock with hitting the campaign trail.
The arrest comes just hours after Trump spurned a televised primary debate in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, featuring eight of his rivals for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination — all of whom lag well behind him in the polls.
He managed to steal the spotlight, though, as the focus of questions, with all but two of the candidates saying they would support Trump as the party’s nominee even if he were convicted in any of the cases.
During a rambling pre-recorded interview with former Fox News talk show host Tucker Carlson, which aired on X, formerly known as Twitter, at the same time as the debate, Trump dismissed the four criminal indictments filed against him as “nonsense.”
He said the Justice Department had been “weaponized” under Democratic President Joe Biden to hamstring his White House bid.
A tight security perimeter has been set up ahead of Trump’s arrival at the Fulton County Jail, an overcrowded facility that is under investigation by the Justice Department for a slew of inmate deaths and deplorable living conditions.
Fani Willis, the Fulton County district attorney who brought the sweeping racketeering case, set a deadline of noon (1600 GMT) on Friday for the 19 defendants to surrender.
– ‘Proudly be arrested’ –
An exact time has not been given for Trump’s arrival, but the former president said in a post on his Truth Social platform that it would be Thursday afternoon.
“NOBODY HAS EVER FOUGHT FOR ELECTION INTEGRITY LIKE PRESIDENT DONALD J. TRUMP,” he posted, using all uppercase letters, adding he will “PROUDLY BE ARRESTED.”
Trump was able to dodge the humiliation of having a mugshot taken during his previous arrests this year: in New York on charges of paying hush money to a porn star, in Florida for mishandling top secret government documents, and in Washington on charges of conspiring to upend his 2020 election loss.
But Fulton County Sheriff Pat Labat said standard procedure in Georgia is for a defendant to have a mugshot taken before they are released on bond, already set at $200,000 in Trump’s case.
Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, who served as Trump’s personal lawyer when he was in the White House and vigorously pushed the false claims that Trump had won the 2020 election, was booked in the case on Wednesday.
Also facing charges in Georgia are Mark Meadows, Trump’s White House chief of staff, and John Eastman, a conservative lawyer who is accused of drawing up a scheme to submit a false slate of Trump electors to Congress from Georgia instead of the legitimate Biden ones.
Trump is the first US president in history to face criminal charges. The four trials will come during the Republican primary season, which begins in January, and at the height of the campaign for the November 2024 presidential vote.
Special counsel Jack Smith has proposed a January 2024 start date for Trump’s trial in Washington on charges of conspiring to overturn the 2020 election, a campaign of lies that culminated in the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol by his supporters.
Trump’s attorneys have countered with an April 2026 start date—well after the 2024 election.
Georgia prosecutors want the racketeering case to begin in March 2024, the same month Trump is scheduled to go on trial in New York on charges of paying hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels on the eve of the 2016 election.
The Florida case, in which Trump is accused of taking secret government documents as he left the White House and refusing to return them, is scheduled to begin in May.