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  1. The Staggers
25 August 2023

That mug shot is a gift to Trump

The ex-president’s booking photo will energise his base.

By Megan Gibson

Of course Donald Trump’s return to Twitter was a post of his scowling mug shot. The former president hasn’t tweeted in more than two years, having been banned from the site for his role in the 6 January riots – a decision that Elon Musk reversed once he bought the platform in November 2022. Yet Trump, ever the showman, took his time, waiting for the right moment to tweet.

That moment came on 24 August after he had surrendered to authorities in Georgia on charges of plotting to overturn the state’s 2020 election results. Once Trump had paid his bail bond of $200,000 he was released from the Fulton County Jail until the trial, taking with him the perfect branding tool for his self-styled persona of persecuted strongman, cornered but not cowed. It’s an image that sums up his readiness to fight. There’s little that Trump understands as well as publicity; he knew that mug shot was a gift.

(There were other gifts from Fulton County booking as well, notably when the booking record marked Trump’s height as 6-foot-3 and his weight as a frankly impossible 215 pounds.)

The media have been happy to play along. Almost immediately headlines and news articles declared that the mug shot was “historic” and “de facto picture of the year”. His photo has been compared to those of Frank Sinatra, Al Capone, Martin Luther King Jr and even, bafflingly, Jane Fonda.

Trump supporters and allies have also seized the moment: the Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene told reporters outside the Fulton County Jail that she was going to create her own mug shot out of solidarity with the former president. She later followed up with her own doctored image on social media. Amusingly, other Trump supporters have felt the need to clarify on social media that their own solidarity mug shots were in fact fake and that they had not been indicted for any crimes. 

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There’s little doubt that Trump will be able to capitalise on this image. If there’s one thing that Trump knows better than publicity it’s how to hustle. Even before he was indicted in Georgia, his campaign was hawking merchandise with a fake mug shot. (Though the Georgia case marks the fourth time the former president has been indicted this year, it was the first time he was actually required to have a mug shot taken.)

Predictably his mug shot tweet also included a link to a fund-raising website which proclaims: “No matter how many vicious lies and attacks they throw our way, President Trump will NEVER SURRENDER our great country to the Left’s tyranny! But the Democrats will spend billions and billions of dollars to try and stop our movement, and we’re counting on YOUR support to finish what we started.” 

Lest you think that few would be that easily swayed by Trump’s obvious hustle, recall that the first indictment against the former president brought in millions of dollars in donations. It’s another question entirely how much the mug shot will help Trump’s political fortunes. Will he win the Republican nomination? That is almost certain. Will he be able to beat Joe Biden in the 2024 presidential election? That’s far less clear.

But in the meantime, the full return of Trump the spectacle, Twitter feed and all, has arrived. He’s back.  

[See also: Jake Paul’s cynical self-promotion]

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