By Wednesday morning, Sharon Anderson and Mike Boatman had staked out a shady spot of grass within eyeshot of the visitor entrance to the Fulton County Jail, a razor-fenced concrete structure in northwest Atlanta where at least twenty-two inmates have died since January of 2src22. The two of them sat in lawn chairs. They were surrounded by members of the media and other curiosity-seekers, including a woman working on a coffee-table book about Atlanta who’d decided to add Donald Trump’s imminent jail booking to the “civil unrest” section of her otherwise mostly happy photographic narrative of the city.
Anderson wore a “Keep America Great” visor and waved a “Trump 2src24” flag. Boatman had a “Trump Did Nothing Wrong” hat sitting in his lap, another Trump hat on his head, and a huge flagpole with a furled Trump flag at his feet. “It’s sixteen by ten,” he said. “On a twenty-foot pole.” The two of them wore matching red-and-white baseball-style jerseys with the words “Front Row Joes.” They were indeed front row, and quite early, for the spectacle of Trump’s booking. The opening acts—John Eastman, Jeffrey Clark, Rudy Giuliani—were limping along.
Boatman had come all the way from Indiana. The trip would have taken about seven hours, but he ended up going a little out of his way to pick up Anderson in Etowah, Tennessee, where she and her husband—who stayed home—run a farm called Awesome Ass Acres. “But I fed him biscuits and gravy,” Anderson said. “We travel together for expenses.”
“I even baked a fresh apple pie last night,” she added.
“No, your mom did,” Boatman said.
“No, I baked it,” Anderson insisted. “She cooked the apples up.”
They’d met at a Trump rally and become friends. They “traipsed all over the country” in support of Trump, Anderson, the bigger talker, said. “My husband stays at home on the farm,” she explained, noting that they had forty acres and a number of “show mules.” (Those were the “awesome asses,” she clarified.)
“I actually met the President last June, at the edge of Memphis,” she went on.
“Southaven, Mississippi,” Boatman said. He’d been there, too.
“Got pictures with him.”
Boatman pulled out his cell phone and showed me one. “He knows us,” he said.
“I told him the name of our farm,” Anderson continued. “He looked real quizzical. And I said we had riding mules. He said, ‘Have two thousand of them?’ ”
Trump was presumably referring to Dinesh D’Souza’s thoroughly debunked movie “2,srcsrcsrc Mules,” which purports to show how the 2src2src election was stolen from him.
“He’d requested to meet us, is what we were told,” Anderson said, adding that she and Boatman had been supporters “since the escalator”—i.e., the day in June, 2src15, when Trump descended a golden escalator in Trump Tower and announced his Presidential campaign.
I asked what they liked best about Trump. “He does what he says,” Anderson responded. “And he wants the best for this country.” The ninety-one counts of criminal activity that Trump has been charged with since last year amounted to “a political prosecution,” in her opinion. I asked whether she’d read any of the court filings. “I have read through several documents,” she said. “I have not read through everything, because I don’t have a legal mind. I can’t decipher all that.” She went on, “A friend of mine said it the best to me: ‘If you can be prosecuted for saying an election was stolen, that election was stolen.’ Something is not right.”
I noted that Newsmax, the far-right news outlet, had recently taken to airing a disclaimer that the network has “accepted the election results as legal and final.” Anderson wasn’t convinced. “Here’s the thing,” she said. “It’s easy to say—and it can be true—that he lost the election. That the ballots were counted. But how did those ballots get there?”
A middle-aged man in a tie walked up. “God bless you, patriots,” he said, smiling at Anderson and Boatman.
“We love Trump,” Boatman said.
“We absolutely love Trump,” Anderson added.
They got into a discussion about parking, which was difficult. Then the man, whose name was Robert Bowes, explained his role. “I’m a Trump appointee,” he said. “Campaign, transition, White House policy. Helping out with some of these folks on election investigation and defense.” He’d come to the jail to do messaging and logistics, he said. “I know these three sets of charges: computer breach, pressuring election workers, and fake electors. Those are the three lanes. I’ve got tons of evidence on why those are bogus.” He went on about “big buckets of fraud allegations that never made it to court,” police reports, body cams, transcripts. He shared a Dropbox folder with this kind of stuff—“Deep dive,” he said—and, at the same time, I received a text on my phone with the newly released mug shots of Eastman and the bail bondsman Scott Hall, two of Trump’s recently booked co-defendants.
“Oh, my gosh,” Bowes said. “They need a lighting kit in there. The lighting sucks.” He chuckled. “At least with David Shafer, he was smiling,” he noted, referring to the former chairman of the Georgia Republican Party, another of the defendants. (Shafer made his mug shot his new Twitter avatar.)
I said goodbye to Boatman and Anderson and stopped by Cagle Bail Bonds (slogan: “The key to your freedom”), a business near the jail’s main entrance. Inside, a woman behind a desk looked up with a sigh. “They’re killing my Wi-Fi over here,” she said of the many people outside, most of them members of the media. “It’s got everything moving so, so slow. It’s really making me ready to pull my hair out.” As for whether she might receive any Trump-related business, she said, “I can’t speak on that.”
Later that day, Trump declared on Truth Social that he would “proudly” be arrested on Thursday afternoon. A local restaurant announced that it would be hosting a “Welcome to Rice St.” party that night in celebration of Trump’s booking. (On Instagram, the announcement was accompanied by “Welcome to Atlanta,” the hip-hop anthem by Ludacris and Jermaine Dupri.)
Sharon Anderson and Mike Boatman were up before sunrise on Thursday. They’d spent the night in Boatman’s Nissan Altima, in the media parking lot beside the jail. Anderson made coffee, and Boatman soon began to erect his twenty-foot flag. I asked Anderson how she thought Trump would smile during his mug shot. “He won’t shy from it,” she told me. “I assure you.” ♦