Chalk up another first for Donald Trump.
In the latest stage of his transformation from the world’s most powerful man to criminal defendant four times over, the ex-president pledged a $200,000 bond Monday, as he steels for another indignity unthinkable in his White House years.
The spectacle of him being booked at an Atlanta jail – which he said would take place on Thursday – will once again underscore the outlandish circumstances of a former and possibly future president facing multiple criminal trials. Trump’s arrival, sure to whip up a media circus, will trample any breakout moments by his adversaries in the first Republican presidential debate in Milwaukee Wednesday night. Trump is snubbing an event that he is working hard to overshadow, even wielding the theatrics of his own processing as a criminal defendant in a case that alleges he and 18 others tried to steal the 2020 election.
Trump has turned his humiliations from a previous trio of indictments into grist for his campaign theme that he’s a victim of political persecution. But his treatment in Georgia, which could include mug shots and fingerprints like anyone else accused of a serious crime, will underscore how the fourth case is different – and in ways that could eventually imperil him. This is also the first time his release conditions have included a cash bond.
“Despite the fact we have seen this before, there is no denying the historic nature of it,” Norm Eisen, a CNN legal analyst and former special assistant to President Barack Obama on ethics and government reform, told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer about the way this surrender will work.
The Georgia indictment could be particularly troublesome to Trump because any powers to freeze proceedings or even pardon himself that he’d regain if elected president next year would only apply if convicted in federal cases. The sweeping indictment brought by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, a Democrat, would be beyond his reach.
It was not immediately clear whether Trump would put up the cash for bond himself or whether he’d seek to finance it through one of his political fundraising committees that he’s used to pay some of his own legal bills and those of some associates.
The terms of Trump’s bond agreement were also noticeably tougher than minimal conditions imposed by a federal court in Washington, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, and under a federal judge in Florida – in three separate cases to which Trump has pleaded not guilty.
Trump had to agree, for example, to make no threats on social media against co-defendants, witnesses and the 30 unindicted co-conspirators. The ex-president may have worsened his own cause. Last week, for instance, he warned on his Truth Social network that Geoff Duncan, the former lieutenant governor of Georgia, “shouldn’t” testify to the grand jury that eventually indicted Trump. Duncan is a Republican and also a CNN contributor.
In another sign of tensions around the case, a source familiar with the matter told CNN that employees in the sheriff’s office that will process Trump on Thursday have faced threats to themselves and their homes.
The list of conditions appears to indicate that Willis and Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee, who oversaw his bond agreement, have watched Trump’s behavior in this and other cases. The former president has excoriated special counsel Jack Smith, who indicted him twice, on social media and in speeches. Last week, it emerged that a Texas woman had been charged with threatening in a voicemail to kill Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is overseeing the federal trial in Washington, DC, over Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election. After the alleged actions detailed in the complaint, Trump criticized Chutkan, an Obama appointee, as “highly partisan.” The judge’s security has been increased, as inflammatory rhetoric from Trump and some of his supporters escalates at time of deep polarization ahead of the next election.
The tough conditions in Georgia also raised the question of what sanctions Trump could face if he trashes the terms of his bond agreement, given his his habitual indifference to rules and agreements.
Elliot Williams, a former federal prosecutor and CNN legal analyst, said that the terms were fair and did not infringe Trump’s rights. “Any judge lives in the real world and is aware certainly of the history certainly of defendants that come before them … and is aware of this defendant’s history of sometimes incendiary social media postings,” Williams said on CNN on Monday.
Trump’s many late-night social media eruptions will make it hard for observers to believe that he will stick to the conditions to which he’s agreed. His lawyers and political advisers have long failed to muzzle the former president, even when it’s been in his political and legal interests. By Monday evening, Trump had already posted on his social media network about the bond.
Anthony Michael Kreis, an assistant professor of law at Georgia State University, told CNN’s Brianna Keilar that despite efforts to treat Trump like any other Fulton County defendant, he would likely get more slack than other citizens because of his status. “I think that folks who think there will be some kind of swift reaction necessarily to each and every possible offense that Donald Trump makes that could run against this order – I think they will be slightly disappointed or surprised that it won’t come to pass.”
Some of Trump’s co-defendants who were indicted alongside him in Georgia also agreed to bail terms ahead of turning themselves in this week.
Conservative attorney John Eastman, who plans to surrender Wednesday, reached a $100,00 bond agreement with Willis. Bond for Ray Smith, a former Trump lawyer, was set at $50,000, while the judge approved a $100,000 bond for pro-Trump lawyer Ken Chesebro, the architect of the fake electors plot who faces seven charges in the case. And Scott Hall, a bail bondsman who served as a pro-Trump poll watcher, must pay $10,000. Defendants must report to pre-trial supervision every 30 days, which they can do by phone, and are forbidden from communicating with each other or any witnesses.
Almost every day brings a new development in one of multiple cases that Trump is facing. In a filing in Washington on Monday, Smith rejected Trump’s request for a trial in the federal election subversion case in 2026, well after the next election. Smith argued that the ex-president’s team had exaggerated the complications of preparing for trial, as he pushes for his own requested date in early January – two weeks before the Iowa caucuses open the Republican nominating contest. Chutkan is holding a hearing next week to hash out when the trial will happen.
In his submission, Smith ridiculed some of the comparisons the Trump team made about the complicated task of preparing for a case featuring thousands of official documents. “In cases such as this one, the burden of reviewing discovery cannot be measured by page count alone, and comparisons to the height of the Washington Monument and the length of a Tolstoy novel are neither helpful nor insightful,” Smith’s office said.