WASHINGTON – Donald Trump made history Thursday by becoming the first former president to have his mug shot taken – an image that will almost certainly reverberate through the 2024 election and become an icon of his legacy.
The photograph of the former president – wearing a dark suit and a furrowed brow and staring intensely into the camera – was publicly released shortly after he was booked at an Atlanta jail on charges that he attempted to overturn the results of the 2020 election in Georgia.
Though Trump faces multiple charges in three other pending criminal cases, the Aug. 14 indictment brought by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis was the first time officials required he submit to a photograph. The images are routinely taken by authorities when people are arrested, in part to identify a defendant in future criminal investigations.
But for Trump, whose face is already arguably the most recognized on the planet, the photo was more a symbolic gesture than a practical piece of evidence. It is, on the one hand, a byproduct of the historic and perilous situation that Trump finds himself as the first former president in history to be charged criminally.
On the other hand, the image could have significant and uncertain political ramifications. In today’s politics, in other words, a picture may be worth a small fortune in campaign donations.
Trump’s campaign was already selling merchandise featuring a fake booking photo – and there were signs his aides would seek to use the official image to his advantage his run for the GOP nomination. Trump took to social media earlier in the week to boast that he would “proudly be arrested.”
Hours after he was booked, Trump returned to the platform formally known as Twitter − and now known as X − with his first post in more than two years. In that post, Trump included his own booking photo and the words “never surrender.”
His Democratic opponents are almost certain to plaster advertising with the photo, too.
Most presidents and former presidents carefully curate the images of themselves that are released to the public. But Trump, a former reality TV star, put a particular emphasis on how he was depicted during his four years in the White House. He also reportedly hung fake Time magazine covers featuring his image at his Mar-a-Lago resort and once drew attention for purchasing a six-foot-tall portrait of himself at a charity auction.
Trump is far from the only famous American to have a booking photo circulated in public. Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Tiger Woods and countless other well-recognized Americans have been booked and photographed. None of them, of course, were former presidents charged with attempting to overturn an election.
Trump is one of 19 defendants charged with racketeering and other crimes in the Georgia case. Rudy Giuliani, a former federal prosecutor who became Trump’s personal attorney, and former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows had already surrendered before Trump and their booking photos were widely circulated.