February 20, 2024
Trump and his supporters, including his sons, got what they've been waiting for -- a mug shot of the ex-president that they can use as a potent symbol for campaign marketing and fundraising.

While liberals Thursday celebrated the shame that Donald Trump should feel for having his scowling face immortalized in a prisoner mug shot, the former president and his acolytes, including his son Donald Trump Jr., were feeling no shame at all but were celebrating, too, in their unique way.

The 45th president returned to his “old friend” Twitter, now called X, for the first time since early January 2021 to trumpet the news of his arrest hours earlier in Fulton County, Georgia, Insider reported. With his mug-shot post racking up almost 90 million views in under nine hours, Trump shared a link to his 2024 campaign website. As predicted months ago, Trump began using his first mug shot from his multiple indictments — which has become an instant cultural sensation — to boost his campaign fundraising efforts.

Meanwhile, Trump Jr. reposted his father’s mug-shot post, and shared another, hawking pro-Trump merch, including $29.99 “Free Trump” T-shirts and $19.99 “Free Trump” posters. Trump Jr. insisted that he, personally, wouldn’t profit from the sales, but that it would go to his father’s legal defense fund. “Can’t wait for my coffee cup,” a person replied to Trump Jr.’s post, which garnered 29,000 likes.

Free Trump Merch! To be clear all profits from this on my Web Store are going to be donated to the Legal Defense Fund to fight the tyranny & insanity we’re seeing before us. Unlike many, I won’t try to profit from this but will do what I can to help. https://t.co/qUQDGg2wAB pic.twitter.com/dm6wL3Mf29

— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) August 25, 2023

Trump Jr.’s fiancêe, Kimberly Guilfoyle, and his younger brother, Eric Trump, also shared Trump’s post, with its “Never Surrender” message. Thus far, though, Trump’s daughter’s, Ivanka and Tiffany, have not shared their father’s mug shot.

When it comes to Guilfoyle, she’s a former San Francisco prosecutor who once worked to uphold law and order and swore a professional oath to support the Constitution of the United States. So, many will see irony in her siding with someone who is accused of breaking the law in Georgia and faces 13 counts of racketeering, conspiracy and efforts to interfere with that state’s presidential election.

After Guilfoyle also re-quoted Trump’s “Never Surrender” message, she also inadvertently touched off jokes at her and Trump’s expense. People filled her feed with laughing emojis and reminders that Trump, in fact, “literally did surrender.” He arrived at the Fulton County, Georgia jail in a lengthy motorcade, and surrendered to be arrested and booked on 13 counts.

She said, reposting a picture of Trump surrendering..

— WP (@Will_Panic) August 25, 2023

However much many find humor, horror or disgust in an ex-president being photographed for a mug shot, it’s important to remember that the former reality TV star and his supporters have long awaited an emblematic photo that they could use to make “a spectacle” of his vast legal troubles, according to Insider and other reports. Yes, the mug shot means that Trump  joins a long list of high-profile defendants and celebrities who have been photographed after being arrested for gruesome murders or embarrassing DUIs. But, as Insider reported, Trump is getting a moment that he can capitalize on.

“The simplicity of the singular post was Trump’s way of showing that he hasn’t lost any of the showbiz energy that defined his first presidential run as he prepares to compete for a second,” Insider said. It also appears that Trump carefully prepared for this moment, with the hair in its signature comb-over neatly in place and plumped up and made shiny. He also wore his usual blue suit, white shirt and red tie — colors suited to appear in American flag-themed campaign merchandise.

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Back in March, before Trump was due to surrender for the first of his four arrests — his booking in Manhattan on charges related to his role in paying hush money to adult film star Stormy Daniels — he contemplated how to turn that moment into “a spectacle,” the New York Times and The Guardian reported. At the time, it was unclear whether he would need to submit to a mug shot in the Manhattan case, but if he did, he debated whether or not to smile. He also hoped he might be photographed being handcuffed.

Trump’s advisers have long been excited about the prospect of a Trump mug shot, though they didn’t get one until Thursday, according to Rolling Stone. They hope it will serve as a potent symbol for his 2024 campaign, something they can use for marketing and fundraising, Rolling Stone also said.

The Associated Press explained how Trump has appeared to give his advisers what they want, even if, for most alleged criminals, a mug shot represents a potential loss of freedom and “permanently memorializes one of the worst days of a person’s life.” If Thursday was a traumatic day for Trump — a man born into privilege and who likes to be in control — he wasn’t showing it in the mug shot. Instead, he appears to have again seized control of the imagery, with the AP saying his “defiance is palpable, as if he’s staring down a nemesis through the lens.”

“It will be forever part of the iconography of being alive in this time,” Marty Kaplan, a professor at the University of Southern California Annenberg School of Communications, told the Associated Press.

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