OPINION - Police mugshot is not badge of shame but a marketing opportunity

Trump addresses gathered media  (AP)
Trump addresses gathered media (AP)

Donald Trump has made history after becoming the first former American president to have his mugshot taken following his arrest on charges of plotting to overturn the 2020 election result.

His surrender to face a racketeering indictment in Georgia saw him fingerprinted by authorities at the Fulton County jail before having his arrest photograph released like any other criminal suspect.

The 77-year-old frontrunner to become the Republican presidential candidate next year was inside the dilapidated jailhouse in central Atlanta for around 20 minutes. He was formally entered into Georgia police records as a white male, 6ft 3in in height, and weighing 215lbs (15 stones 5lbs), with blond or strawberry hair and blue eyes. His inmate number was P01135809.

Dozens of his supporters gathered outside, along with opponents, but there were no clashes as Mr Trump’s lengthy Secret Service convoy came and went, accompanied by state police vehicles and a media cavalcade.

It was the fourth time this year that Mr Trump has had to surrender to law enforcement authorities to face either federal or state charges, some arising from his baseless claims that the 2020 vote was stolen from him by Democrat Joe Biden. He denies all allegations.

Donald Trump’s mugshot (Getty Images)
Donald Trump’s mugshot (Getty Images)

In Washington, New York and Miami, he did not have to pose for a mugshot. In Fulton County, however, it was a requirement. The police photo showed Mr Trump, wearing his trademark navy suit and red tie, scowling at the camera, his brows furrowed as he stared slightly off-centre into the lens.

After he was released on payment of 10 per cent of his $200,000 bail, Mr Trump returned to Twitter (now known as X) for the first time since he was banned from the platform when his supporters stormed Congress in January 2021 in a deadly bid to thwart Mr Biden’s confirmation as president.

The defiant post carried the mugshot and a link to his campaign website, calling for donations for his 2024 campaign. He wrote in block capitals: “Election Interference. Never Surrender!”

On the airport tarmac before he returned to New Jersey, Mr Trump insisted that he “did nothing wrong”, and called the case accusing him of subverting the Georgia election result a “travesty of justice”. “You should be able to challenge an election,” he told reporters. However, Mr Trump and others are accused of going alarmingly further than merely challenging Mr Biden’s 2020 win, attempting instead to orchestrate a fraud on US voters by claiming without evidence that the Democrats had cheated them of victory.

Mr Trump was heard in a phone call pressuring Georgia’s top election official to “find 11,780 votes” during the count.

In the Fulton County jail, 18 co-defendants have also been booked this week including former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani and ex-White House chief-of-staff Mark Meadows. They have yet to be formally arraigned, but also deny the racketeering charges, which carry up to 20 years in jail. While Mr Trump bids to cash in on his legal troubles, and his partisans remain as devoted as ever, they are threatening to catch up with him as the 2024 race heats up.

Ahead of the Georgia arrest, he skipped a debate among other Republican candidates, where most of them vowed to support him as the nominee, even if he is convicted of a crime. But rival Chris Christie said: “Someone’s got to stop normalising misconduct. Whether or not you believe that the criminal charges are right or wrong, the conduct is beneath the office of president of the United States.”