Aug 25, 2023 - Podcasts

Trump surrenders in Georgia

Former President Trump turned himself in to the Fulton County Jail on Thursday evening. Trump was booked on 13 state felony charges for his interference in the 2020 election.

The big picture: All this is happening against the backdrop of the 2024 presidential election. Even though Trump wasn't at the first GOP primary debate on Wednesday night, he dominated the conversation. We look at the state of play for the GOP presidential nominees.

  • Plus, the rise of right-wing pop music.

Guests: Axios' Erin Doherty and The Atlanta-Journal Constitution's Tamar Hallerman.

Credits: Axios Today was produced by Niala Boodhoo, Alexandra Botti, Fonda Mwangi, Robin Linn, Lydia McMullen-Laird and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can send questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.


NIALA: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It's Friday, August 25.

I'm Niala Boodhoo.

Today, the state of play with GOP presidential nominees. Plus, the rise of right-wing pop music.

But first, former President Trump surrenders in Georgia. That's today's One Big Thing.

NIALA: Former President Donald Trump turned himself in to the Fulton County Jail yesterday evening for his fourth arrest this year.

This time he was booked on 13 state felony charges for his interference in the 2020 presidential election. Tamar Hellerman from the Atlanta Journal Constitution has been covering this story since the beginning. Hi Tamar, welcome to Axios Today

TAMAR HELLERMAN: Thanks for having me.

NIALA: Tamar, what has it been like in Atlanta for this arrest?

TAMAR: It's really felt like a circus on the ground here in Atlanta. There's a flood of national media that's been here since the indictment and really hasn't left. And then in recent days, the crowd has moved over to the Fulton County Jail, which is in a more low-income and industrial part of the city in Northwest Atlanta. And then when Trump came in, media from all over the world, protesters, supporters of the president who wanted to show that they felt like this was a partisan witch hunt and counter-protesters who feel like they're elated that there's some accountability for the former president.

NIALA: Tamar, is the process the former president went through the same as everyone else's who goes through that jail?

TAMAR: Yes and no. On the one hand, he did have a medical test, he had to deal with the issue of bond, he was fingerprinted and there was a mugshot. But at the same time, having Secret Service protection and a motorcade coming from your private plane with your name on it is not something that your normal person is going to go through. There's also usually quite a bit of a wait for people who are getting booked at this jail. They're waiting in a really crowded room filled with plenty of other people who are going through the same thing. Not the case for the former president. It helps when you have Secret Service helping negotiate on your behalf. And being able to set the terms of all of this in prime time, so that the world would be watching with you and following in helicopters and drones. That is certainly unique.

NIALA: The Fulton County Superior Court judge set a trial date yesterday as well. What's important about that?

TAMAR: Well, earlier this week, we saw Ken Chesebro, who was one of the defendants indicted alongside Donald Trump, issued a speedy trial demand, essentially, Chesebro was daring Fannie Willis. Are you ready to do this? And it turns out the DA said, yes, I'm ready to do this. And she proposed October 23rd as a potential trial date, not only for Chesebro but for all 19 defendants. Well, the judge just came back yesterday, and said, we'll do October 23rd, but only for Kenneth Chesebro. So that puts that case on a really expedited timeline. It's unclear what's going to happen with these 18 other defendants. Many of them, especially former President Trump, want this to go slow, very slow. So we could see more shenanigans in terms of folks trying to delay or even some trying to push things forward fast.

NIALA: Tamar, there's so many different elements of this case. What are you watching for next?

TAMAR: Well, I'm watching specifically to see what happens with this effort from a couple of the defendants, including Mark Meadows, the former White House chief of staff, and two others to try and move their portions of this case from Fulton County Court to federal court. And, first of all, doing that could delay proceedings a bit, but more than anything, they feel like it gets them more favorable judges and a more favorable jury pool. Fulton County is a very democratic county. The federal district court, uh, has more conservative counties in its jurisdiction. And I think they're hoping that they'll have a more sympathetic judge who is more likely to argue that they might be immune because folks like Mark Meadows were federal officials. And there will be a hearing on Monday involving Mark Meadows' push to move this to federal court. There's going to be several witnesses called, including Brad Raffensperger, the former Georgia secretary of state. And we're going to hear a lot more from DA Willis about her case against the former chief of staff.

NIALA: The AJC's Tamar Hellerman. Thanks Tamar.

TAMAR: Thank you!

In a moment the winners and losers from this week's GOP debate.

NIALA: Welcome back to Axios Today. I'm Niala Boodhoo.

BRET BAIER: We are going to take a brief moment and talk about the elephant not in the room.

VIVEK RAMASWAMY: President Trump, I believe, was the best president of the 21st century.

MIKE PENCE: He asked me to put him over the constitution. And uh, I chose the constitution,

NIKKI HALEY: And Donald Trump added $8 trillion to our debt.

NIALA: A few moments from the first GOP presidential debate in Milwaukee this week, broadcast on Fox News. Former President Trump, of course, wasn't there, but he certainly dominated the conversation. The eight other candidates sparred on stage. How'd they do? Axios politics reporter Erin Doherty is here with the key takeaways.

Hi, Erin!


NIALA: Erin, who were the big winners from Wednesday night's debate?

ERIN: I think the big winner was former President Trump. The big question for him going into the debate was is there going to be any moments on stage where it would have been really helpful and important for him to be there so that he can defend himself against attacks,or assert himself in different policy discussions.

By and large, I think that there weren't many moments where Trump being there for himself would have been necessary so that he can defend his name, and I think the other person who has been dominating conversation since Wednesday night's debate is Vivek Ramaswamy. He's a political newcomer. He entered the presidential campaign with very little name recognition, and he kind of took the role in Wednesday night's debate as the Trump proxy.

VIVEK RAMASWAMY: Let's be honest as Republicans, I'm the only person on the stage who isn't bought and paid for. So I can say this, the climate change agenda is a hoax.

ERIN: He went on the attack against many of the candidates, and he really positioned himself, as the person who, when Trump isn't there, he has sort of the energy, and desire to kind of take on the Republican establishment.

NIALA: We haven't talked about Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has been number two in the polls. How did he do?

ERIN: I think Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis can be pretty happy with his performance on Wednesday night. His team was expecting that he was going to bear a lot of the attacks and criticisms as the second-place candidate. He really didn't get a lot of attacks from his Republican rivals. And while that means that he didn't really have as many viral moments as, say, Ramaswamy did, I think the debate on Wednesday night for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, was pretty neutral, and at this point for him, I think that's a good thing going into the fall season.

NIALA: Does the discussion on Wednesday night give us another sense of what Trumpism looks like without Donald Trump?

ERIN: Former President Trump's presence on stage was felt, it was impossible to watch Wednesday night's debate without the kind of looming backdrop of Trump's various legal troubles. When asked by the Fox News debate moderators whether they would support former President Trump if he is convicted, the majority of the candidates on stage all said that they would, with the exception of, former governors Chris Christie and Asa Hutchinson, who are both, well-known Trump critics and have criticized the former president in the past pretty harshly.

NIALA: Given that looming presence, what is the state of play for the field for Republican nominees for president?

ERIN: The state of play right now is that while there were some good moments for a bunch of the candidates on stage Wednesday night, all of that is unlikely to change that Donald Trump is entering the fall as the clear frontrunner in the very crowded race for the Republican nomination. I am not expecting Wednesday night's debate to be something that really changed the fundamental dynamics of the race.

NIALA: Erin Doherty is a politics reporter for Axios covering breaking news in the 2024 election. Thanks, Erin.

ERIN: Thank you.

NIALA: One final story…

If you tuned into this week's GOP debate, you may have heard this song that kicked it off on Fox News.


That's "Rich Men North of Richmond" by Oliver Anthony. It's reached number 1 on the charts, beating out the likes of Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus. And it's just one of many signs of a growing populist pop culture movement, reports Axios' Stef Kight and Sara Fischer.

Another recent hit is Jason Aldean's controversial song "Try That in a Small Town," which takes a shot at crime in cities.


One key to these songs' success? A thumbs down from mainstream media and left-leaning groups. That kind of judgment only nudges tracks higher in the charts. And engages voters ahead of the 2024 presidential election.

That's all for this week. Axios Today is produced by Fonda Mwangi, Lydia McMullen-Laird and Robin Linn, along with our sound engineer Alex Sugiura. Alexandra Botti is our supervising producer. Sara Kehaulani Goo is Axios' editor in chief. Aja Whitaker Moore is Axios' Executive Editor.

I'm Niala Boodhoo. Stay safe, enjoy your weekend and we'll see you back here on Monday.

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