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Why Trump’s surrender is such a big deal

Everything you need to know about Trump’s arrest, mugshot, and coming arraignment.

Trump, in a navy suit, white shirt, and red tie, is seen standing in an airfield, his arms spread wide. Behind him rests his private jet, which is painted red, white, and blue and bears his name; and behind that, a blue and purple sky, lit by the setting sun.
Donald Trump speaks to the press after turning himself in to law enforcement in Georgia.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Li Zhou is a politics reporter at Vox, where she covers Congress and elections. Previously, she was a tech policy reporter at Politico and an editorial fellow at the Atlantic.

Former President Donald Trump now has a mugshot.

Facing 13 counts related to his efforts to overturn the 2020 election, Trump surrendered to Georgia law enforcement on Thursday evening. He was taken into custody, or, as he put it on his social media platform Truth Social on Thursday afternoon, “ARRESTED by a Radical Left, Lowlife District Attorney.”

Trump, in a navy suit, white shirt, and red tie, scowls in a photo of his head and shoulders. The seal of the Fulton County Sheriff, a triangular badge bracketed by a golden form is in the upper left hand corner.
Former President Donald Trump’s mugshot, taken in Fulton County on August 24, 2023.
Fulton County Sheriff’s Office/Getty Images

Trump didn’t have a mugshot taken when processed in the other cases he faces, but things were different in Georgia. Fulton County Sheriff Pat Labat has emphasized that the county wants to treat Trump like anyone else who has been accused of a crime.

“Unless somebody tells me differently, we are following our normal practices, and so it doesn’t matter your status, we’ll have a mugshot ready for you,” Labat told local news station WSB-TV ahead of Trump’s surrender.

That’s unlikely to be the only way Trump’s Georgia case differs from his other legal troubles: Typically, all Georgia courtrooms allow cameras, unless there are unique extenuating circumstances. That means Donald Trump’s upcoming arraignment and even his trial in the Fulton County case — which could take months — could also be broadcast, allowing the world to see it play out in real time.

According to legal experts, such footage can be powerful, in its ability to shape public perception of the witnesses, case, and outcome. It can combat misinformation, for example, and provide a direct source for viewers to reference. And as NPR reported, the public is more likely to have confidence in the outcome of a court case if they’re able to watch the actual proceedings.

“Any time members of the public get to see what’s happening inside a courtroom as opposed to receiving a filter via the news media later on, it can be a good thing,” says Emory law professor Kay Levine.

Here’s what to expect now that Trump has surrendered to Georgia law enforcement — and why this case could have some of the largest stakes of any of the Trump indictments so far.

What’s next for Trump’s arraignment?

Trump turned himself in to Georgia authorities on Thursday, August 24, one day after the Republican debate (which he declined to take part in) and the airing of his interview with former Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson.

His arraignment, however, isn’t set to take place until later, with Georgia prosecutors pushing for proceedings the week of September 5. In Fulton County, unlike some of the other jurisdictions where Trump has been indicted, the booking process is handled independently from the arraignment when he’ll be able to offer his plea. As with the other charges he’s faced, Trump is expected to plead not guilty. In a press conference following his arrest, Trump told reporters, “We did nothing wrong at all.”

Because Trump had already negotiated a bond agreement, he wasn’t held in Fulton County custody after turning himself in. In total, he agreed to a $200,000 bond, including $80,000 for racketeering charges and $10,000 each for every other charge including making false statements and pressuring public officials to ignore the election outcome.

Trump’s attorneys have been able to negotiate away the need for him to take a mugshot in other instances. This time, they were unable to do so, making Trump not just the first president to be indicted and the first president to be indicted multiple times, but the first to receive a mugshot as well.

Prosecutors have signaled they’re interested in pushing for a trial that could happen as soon as October 23 of this year. That date was selected after one of Trump’s co-defendants requested a speedy trial. Trump’s legal team, however, has noted the president did not make any requests for an accelerated trial timeline, and has asked that he be given a later start date.

Because of Trump’s profile, the complexity of the case, and the number of defendants involved, experts note that it could take a significant amount of time to both select jurors and complete the trial itself.

What’s the significance of the cameras in the courtroom?

The transparency in the courtroom could be a significant departure from other Trump legal proceedings.

Both federal courts and New York state court — where these arraignments have happened — have strict policies limiting television cameras inside the courthouse, so most of the information is conveyed via written reporting, sketches, and in some cases photographs. In Georgia, however, “​​there are extremely limited circumstances in which a court would prohibit a camera from entering the courtroom,” says University of Georgia law professor Elizabeth Taxel.

Trump’s attorneys could try to block the use of cameras. Generally, the argument against having cameras in the courtroom is that they can intimidate jurors and witnesses who may feel nervous about being recorded. But David E. Hudson, general counsel for the Georgia Press Association, told the New York Times he could not recall a single trial that had been closed to cameras in his 40 years representing the state’s press. Georgia officials tend to argue cameras provide the public with important insight into legal cases and make trials more accessible.

Previously, Trump’s attorneys pushed to keep cameras out of the New York courthouse where his arraignment took place, arguing that it would cause a “circus-like atmosphere.” At the time, a New York judge sided with his team, though it’s less typical for cameras to be allowed in any of the state’s courtrooms.

The ability to see these events unfold in real time could help people follow the specifics of the trial, experts note, and it could potentially change how attorneys and witnesses behave since they know they’ll be filmed. Additionally, a more public arraignment and trial could shape public discourse about the case much like the televised hearing of high-profile figures like Amber Heard, who sued fellow actor Johnny Depp for defamation, has previously done.

While Trump loyalists are unlikely to be moved by any new information in this trial, it’s possible that it could matter for crucial swing voters, who broadly think these indictments are an important matter. In a recent ABC News/Ipsos poll, for example, 64 percent of independent voters believe the charges in the Georgia indictment are serious.

“Of all Donald Trump’s legal issues, the Georgia indictment is the most politically dangerous,” John Cluverius, director of survey research at the UMass Lowell Center for Public Opinion, previously said in a statement. “It’s another reminder to Georgia voters, particularly those in the suburbs, that Trump tried to steal the 2020 election and subvert their fairly counted ballots.”

Why shouldn’t you tune this fourth indictment out?

There is understandably a lot of fatigue over the many indictments Trump is facing, seeing as this is the fourth time he’s undergoing this entire process.

Of the four indictments, however, Georgia ranks highly in terms of importance due to the implications it could have on the future of US democracy. This case, much like the federal indictment focused on the 2020 election, could set a precedent for how seriously courts punish those who attempt to thwart the democratic transfer of power. And its outcome could determine what lengths future presidential contenders are willing to take to challenge election results they don’t like.

Interestingly, this case also charges 18 others who aided Trump’s scheme in Georgia, and could see high-profile figures like former Trump attorneys Rudy Giuliani and John Eastman as well as former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows navigating their own legal consequences, too. That means it could also create new boundaries for what a candidate’s allies can legally do to help them dispute results after they lose a race.

Additionally, this indictment is one to watch because Trump would be unable to pardon himself should he become president again, given the specific rules around pardons in the state. In Georgia, pardons for criminal offenses need to be approved by a state board and can’t be issued unilaterally by the governor or the president.

Update, August 24, 8:55 pm ET: This article was originally published on August 22, and has been updated with the details of Trump’s booking and mugshot.

Correction, August 23, 8:30 am ET: This article previously inaccurately described Trump’s New York court appearance. Those proceedings were his arraignment for an indictment in New York.

A very sad experience, and a very sad day for our country.

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