By Jack Queen
ATLANTA (Reuters) – Donald Trump will be in a Georgia jail for the blink of an eye on Thursday, protected by his lifetime Secret Service detail in a tightly orchestrated process meant to get the former U.S. president in and out of a facility he describes as a “humanitarian crisis.”
In an apparent bid to rally supporters, the front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination said in a campaign email on Tuesday that the Fulton County jail in Atlanta, Georgia, is a violent place where “guards have collected over 1,000 shanks fashioned from the crumbling walls.”
Trump, 77, was unlikely to encounter any shanks, prison slang for homemade weapons, or any inmates either, security experts said.
“It’s fair to say the standard protocols are not all going to be followed,” said former Secret Service agent and risk consultant Jonathan Wackrow. “But this is a former U.S. president who is under constant secret service protection. Why would it be normal?”
The Georgia case in which Trump is accused of conspiring to subvert the results of the 2020 presidential election is one of four criminal cases pending against him.
Trump has denied wrongdoing and repeatedly claimed the prosecutions are part of a “witch hunt” orchestrated by political enemies.
But he has repeatedly used them to fundraise and drum up support among supporters who view him as an anti-establishment candidate.
Trump’s support has grown since his first indictment in March, according to Reuters/Ipsos polling, and his campaign has said all of them boosted fundraising.
In the Georgia case, Trump was quick to seize on the Fulton County jail’s poor safety in the campaign email, touting his resolve to save an “America in decline.”
The U.S. Department of Justice opened an investigation into the jail in July, citing violence, unsanitary conditions and 15 inmate deaths last year. One was a man whose family claims in a lawsuit was “eaten alive” by bedbugs.
The Fulton County Sheriff’s Office did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.
Trump, who gleefully led supporters in “lock her up” chants aimed at his 2016 presidential rival Hillary Clinton, is unlikely to be handcuffed or see the inside of a cell.
Jails are volatile places rife with security challenges for the former president’s retinue, and jail staff and the Secret Service have a mutual interest in getting Trump in and out swiftly.
Trump supporters were expected to gather outside the jail in sweltering heat alongside a small army of reporters.
A flier circulating online promised a peaceful demonstration at the jail situated off a quiet, tree-lined residential street in central Atlanta.
During his booking, Trump was expected to have his mug shot taken for the first time in four criminal cases. Law enforcement in Washington, D.C., Florida and New York decided that mug shots, generally meant to help identify suspects who flee, were unnecessary.
Fulton County Sheriff Pat Labat said Trump would have his photo taken like any other defendant.
Trump’s face is among the world’s most recognizable. He alluded to this in a post on his Truth Social platform on Monday, saying Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ insistence on a $200,000 bond package indicated she thought he was a flight risk.
“Would I be able to take my very ‘understated’ airplane with the gold TRUMP affixed for all to see. Probably not, I’d be much better off flying commercial – I’m sure nobody would recognize me!” Trump said in the post.
Trump’s mug shot could wind up on official, or unofficial, campaign merchandise.
After his first arrest in New York in March on charges related to a hush-money payment he made to a porn star, both supporters and detractors were quick to circulate a fake mug shot online.
(Reporting by Jack Queen in Atlanta; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Howard Goller)