Former President Donald Trump was booked Thursday at Atlanta’s Fulton County Jail on 13 felony charges for attempting to overturn the 2020 election. He paid $20,000, or 10% of his $200,000 bond, through a local bail bondsman, allowing him to be released after about 20 minutes at the jail. He is expected to face trial as early as October. In Atlanta, we speak with two guests: Carol Anderson, a professor of African American studies at Emory University and the author of One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy, among other books on race and civil rights in American politics, and Hugo Lowell, a reporter for The Guardian who has closely covered Trump’s criminal case in Georgia. Anderson discusses the Trump campaign’s use of a long legacy of racism and voter suppression in an attempt to “overthrow democracy” via an “assault on Black humanity,” while Lowell shares what’s next for Trump and his 18 other co-defendants, including former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and lawyer Kenneth Cheseboro, who first suggested the plot to create fake electors.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.
Donald Trump surrendered at the notorious Fulton County Jail Thursday night, booked on 13 felony charges for attempting to overturn the 2020 election. Once inside the jail, he was fingerprinted and had his mugshot taken. He was released after about 20 minutes on a $200,000 bond. Since March, the former president has been indicted four times and faces a total of 91 criminal charges.
On Thursday, Trump became the first former president to have his mugshot taken. Soon after the photo was released, Trump began using the photo to raise money for his presidential campaign. He also posted the mugshot on the social media platform X. It was his first post on the site since he was banned by Twitter after the January 6th insurrection in 2021.
Donald Trump briefly spoke to reporters at the airport Thursday after he was released.
DONALD TRUMP: What has taken place here is a travesty of justice. We did nothing wrong. I did nothing wrong. And everybody knows it. I’ve never had such support. And that goes with the other ones, too. What they’re doing is election interference. They’re trying to interfere with an election. There’s never been anything like it in our country before.
AMY GOODMAN: Trump’s former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows also surrendered Thursday and was released on $100,000 bond. A hearing will be held on Monday regarding Meadows’ request to move his trial to a federal court. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has subpoenaed Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and one of his former staffers to testify at a hearing over the request by Meadows.
On Thursday, Willis also called to move the start of Trump’s trial to October 23rd, after one of Trump’s other 18 co-defendants, Kenneth Chesebro, demanded a speedy trial. He’s the lawyer who proposed Trump use fake electors to try to overturn the election. A judge has set his trial to begin on that same day, October 23rd.
We go now to Atlanta, where we’re joined by two guests. Hugo Lowell is a reporter for The Guardian who has closely covered Donald Trump’s indictment in Georgia. And Carol Anderson is a professor of African American studies at Emory University, the author of many books, including One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy. Her other books include The Second: Race and Guns in a Fatally Unequal America and White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide.
Professor Anderson, let’s begin with you. Your reaction to the booking, this historic moment, of the former president of the United States, the first time ever? And it happened in your state, in Georgia.
CAROL ANDERSON: It felt — given the kinds of pressure that Trump put on Atlanta and put on Georgia and the targeting of Fulton County as somehow this bastion of corruption, this felt like vindication. It felt like justice. It felt Nina Simone good.
AMY GOODMAN: This is coming on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington. In 1963, so many marched for voting rights, for civil rights. Talk about why you see this as a civil rights story.
CAROL ANDERSON: Oh, it was the attack on voting rights, because in Fulton County — well, in Georgia writ large, 90% of African Americans who voted voted for Biden. Over almost 70% of Latinos who voted in Georgia voted for Biden. And a little over 60% or so of Asian Americans who voted voted for Biden. What you saw with Trump’s team, their attempt to wipe out those votes, it was the attempt to say that their votes were illegitimate, the votes of minorities were illegitimate, like they weren’t real Americans. It was the same kind of assault that we saw in the Jim Crow era, that those weren’t real Americans and their votes didn’t count. It was as if the march on the Edmund Pettus Bridge and Bloody Sunday was irrelevant.
And so, it was seeing this kind of systemic and corrosive assault on the right to vote, the right to vote and to have your votes counted, and the way that African Americans were denigrated in that assault as illegitimate, as the source of criminality, as the source of fraud, massive rampant voter fraud, where you could have a Rudy Giuliani talking about Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss as drug dealers, passing out ballots as if they’re passing out heroin and cocaine. That kind of assault on Black humanity was the same kind of assault that led to the Voting Rights Act.
AMY GOODMAN: Hugo Lowell, you’ve been reporting on this for some time. We’re speaking to you in Atlanta. If you can share your response to what happened last night? As you wrote in your article earlier this week, “Trump had his legal team negotiate his booking to take place during the primetime viewing hours for the cable news networks.”
HUGO LOWELL: Well, Trump basically wanted to surrender in the evening on Thursday because he knew that if he could turn things into a spectacle, if he could turn it into a circus, he would be able to garner as much coverage as he could, and, in doing so, distract from not only the severity of the charges, because he’s being hit with a racketeering charge in this case, but also from the indignity of having to go through the booking process.
You know, him arriving at the jail in a motorcade at the time that he wanted was as far as the special treatment that he got went, frankly. The moment he was in the jail, he was treated like any other criminal defendant. And I think that’s really important, because that was not how he has been treated in any of his other criminal cases. He had to be fingerprinted. He had his height and weight recorded, even though it appears that he came up with that figure himself. And then he had his mugshot taken.
And if you look at the mugshot, I think you see two sides of Trump. You see a Trump who is trying to look defiant, and that was a face that he practiced in the lead-up to the booking. But you can also see a sense of fear in his eyes and the fact that this is becoming really real. And we know from speaking to his aides and his advisers in the days leading up to his surrender, he really felt the enormity of what was coming down the line.
AMY GOODMAN: And can you talk about his new attorney?
HUGO LOWELL: You know, Trump has a history of firing lawyers when criminal investigations turn into indictments. You know, we saw it in the Mar-a-Lago classified documents case when Jim Trusty, this former DOJ official, ended up getting let go when the indictment came down. And it appears to be no different in this case. Trump previously had retained Drew Findling to be his lawyer for the entirety of the special purpose grand jury and the actual criminal investigation, and when the indictment came down, Trump ultimately flipped him out for a new lawyer, Steve Sadow, who, in many ways, is probably a better choice for Trump anyway. You know, Sadow has this reputation of being a kind of more of a trial attorney. He likes to beat his chest. He likes to go on TV. That was one thing that Drew Findling did not like to do. And I think it kind of underscores where Trump’s mind is as he goes into trial.
AMY GOODMAN: And can you talk about him turning to a bail bondsman to meet the agreed-upon $200,000 bond?
HUGO LOWELL: Yeah. By going to a commercial bail bondsman here in Atlanta, Trump gets out of having to pay the full $200,000. He can basically put down 10%, or $20,000, and satisfy his conditions of release here. And it’s interesting that even though he went to a bail bondsman, he actually put up the $20,000, as we are told by people close to the former president, himself, through his own money, which is unusual because all of his other legal fees in all of the other criminal investigations are being paid for by the Save America PAC. He has paying, basically, all of his aides’ lawyer’s fees, his own lawyers’ fees, through the PAC. And to see him stand up this $20,000 himself was a notable departure, I think.
AMY GOODMAN: You wrote a piece on Wednesday, Hugo, headlined “Trump’s plan to skip debate shields him from legal exposure.” Explain.
HUGO LOWELL: Yeah, I think this kind of speaks to how Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign is so intertwined with the legal team. You know, I think people like to think, “Oh, where does the legal team end, and where does the campaign begin?” But, really, it’s all wrapped up in the same operation. And that has its benefits, but it also has its drawbacks, because every time Trump has given televised remarks whenever he’s confronted with difficult legal questions, Trump seems to say a little bit too much and incriminate himself a little bit further.
You know, the last two times that Trump was on TV, when he did the CNN town hall, he exacerbated his legal exposure with respect to the writer E. Jean Carroll, who, the day after losing his civil case during he was — that, basically, a jury said he was a sexual assault perpetrator, he went and doubled down on his claims. And then, when he was on TV with Fox in an interview, he basically conceded to holding on to classified documents even when he had been subpoenaed.
And so, I think there was a palpable fear among his lawyers and his aides that if he went and did the debate and he was cornered with a legal question, he might say something that would deepen his legal trouble. And so I think there was a sense of relief that, ultimately, he did not go to the debate and cause himself further problems.
AMY GOODMAN: And, Hugo Lowell, talk about these other developments, for example, that Chesebro asked for a speedy trial, which people are entitled to, and a date has been set for October 23rd, which has implications for all of the co-defendants, or, as they are called, co-conspirators, and also Mark Meadows wanting to take this to federal court and the hearing set for Monday, where now Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s secretary of state, has been subpoenaed to testify.
HUGO LOWELL: You know, you’re starting to see what happens when you have 19 defendants in a criminal case. And what is happening is, basically, you are getting different conspirators with diverging interests compared to Trump. You know, Trump’s overarching legal strategy in all of these cases is to delay. He wants to delay past the presidential election, because if he wins and he can install himself as president, he can avoid any sort of criminal liability that comes with a potential conviction because he will be in office. But that’s not necessarily the interests of the other defendants. You know, Meadows, for instance, the former chief of staff, wants to remove his case to federal court. We expect Trump to want to do the same. But, you know, how is Meadows going to defend himself? Well, he might say that he was working at the behest of the president, and that’s not exactly great for Trump.
As for Ken Chesebro, the lawyer who came up with the — or, was implementing the fake electors scheme, he moved for a speedy trial in Georgia, which under local rules here means a trial will come, you know, in two grand jury terms, and that’s why, as you said, it’s been set for October 23. But that is not in Donald Trump’s interests. Again, you know, Chesebro gambled a little bit here and thought maybe the district attorney wouldn’t be ready to go to trial, but, as we have reported in kind of the past several weeks, the delay from the end of the special purpose grand jury to the indictment appears to have been time where the district attorney was anticipating these pretrial motions and these pretrial rulings that might come, and basically ensuring they would be ready to go to trial. And this might be the thing that turns around and bites them where they didn’t anticipate it.
AMY GOODMAN: And can you talk about Harrison Floyd III, the former leader of Black Voices for Trump, the only one of Trump’s 18 co-defendants who remains jailed?
HUGO LOWELL: Yeah, this was quite a turn yesterday. Harrison Floyd self-surrendered himself at the jail in Atlanta without having negotiated a bond agreement. And so, what happened was he was booked and processed like everyone else, and then he remains incarcerated in the jail, because he doesn’t have negotiated conditions of release. And I think this was quite extraordinary, because it appears that the District Attorney’s Office had tried to tell him to come to their office and negotiate some sort of conditions of release, and he didn’t do that, and he self-surrendered. And ultimately, that is the predicament that he finds himself in, which is unique among all of the 19 defendants.
AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go back to Donald Trump speaking last night.
DONALD TRUMP: I really believe this is a very sad day for America. This should never happen. If you challenge an election — you should be able to challenge an election. I thought the election was a rigged election, a stolen election, and I should have every right to do that.
AMY GOODMAN: So, Professor Anderson, he is clearly framing this as a free speech issue: You should be able to challenge an election; you should be able to speak freely. Your response?
CAROL ANDERSON: It wasn’t that he just challenged an election via free speech. It was the criminal actions that he undertook in order to overturn the will of the voters. And so, the fake electors scheme, where you have people who pretend to be the real electors going into the state House and signing a form saying that they are the actual duly elected electors, and then sending that form to government officials, to the president of the Senate, to the head of the National Archives and to a federal judge here in Georgia, signing it off, saying that Georgia’s Electoral College votes will go to Donald Trump, as if Donald Trump was the one who won the vote here in Georgia, and he didn’t, so that was fraud. And that was part of the scheme to overturn this election.
And the other component of this is he’s saying that it was stolen. But there were three recounts here in Georgia. There was a hand recount of 5 million ballots. Biden won that hand recount. And that recount was done November 19th. Then there was a machine recount. That machine recount was done in — was completed in early December. And that showed that Biden had also won. But then what we have are a series of legislative hearings where Rudy Giuliani is spewing lie after lie after lie, basically saying up to 150,000 fraudulent votes were cast here in Georgia, and so, therefore, the state Legislature needed to step in and overturn the results of a free and fair election. And then there was a hand recount — not a hand recount, there was a recount of absentee ballots in Cobb County, which is part of metro Atlanta, of these 15,000 ballots. Those 15,000 ballots showed that there was nothing wrong with those absentee ballots. And so, here you have basically three recounts showing no fraud, but they continued to spread that lie of fraud and then act upon that lie of fraud to try to overthrow a free and fair election.
So this isn’t about free speech. This is about trying to launch a coup, trying to overthrow democracy. This is an assault on American democracy. That’s what the charge really is.
AMY GOODMAN: Let me ask you about the charges against Trevian Kutti, Harrison Floyd and Stephen Cliffgard Lee, including solicitation of false statements, influencing witnesses, as they tried to convince Ruby Freeman to make a false confession. Trump mentioned Ruby Freeman 18 times during his call with Georgia Secretary of State Raffensperger. How did these charges shed light on what was taking place there?
CAROL ANDERSON: One is that they identified African American women who were doing the work of democracy as basically being a threat to his presidency. Two, they lied. They just lied. And as Brad Raffensperger says, this was a sliced and diced video that they portrayed as being the alpha and omega of the smoking gun of proof that fraud had happened, that they had pulled out suitcases of ballots underneath a desk in State Farm Arena and then copied them 18,000 times, running through to jack up Biden’s victory, except the hand recount, basically, and the machine recount denies that, because if you have the ballots, then you don’t have 18,000 additional votes.
And the targeting of Ruby Freeman, by saying that, you know, she’s a hustler, dope dealer, hustler, hustler, hustler, linking Blackness with criminality, it was a way to then try to solidify that charge of fraud. And by then getting — so, when the minister goes to Ruby Freeman’s house and he knocks on her door and she won’t answer, and then he calls the Black man to say, “Oh, you know, she’s afraid of talking to me because I’m white” — again playing the race card there. And then you have Blacks for Trump then bringing in Kanye West’s publicist to try to convince her to lie, to say that she did something that she didn’t do, putting enormous pressure on this woman, putting enormous pressure on this Black woman who was just doing the work of democracy, to make her lie so that it would provide some level of credence to Donald Trump’s lie. That is extortionist pressure. That is an acceptable. That’s why he is charged. That’s why they are charged.
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