Donald Trump still rewriting laws of politics after Georgia arrest

Mugshot of Donald Trump
Mugshot of Donald Trump

Donald Trump has been complaining recently about the pictures used of him on Fox News.

"They purposely show the absolutely worst pictures of me, especially the big 'orange' one with my chin pulled way back," he wrote on his Truth Social platform.

The former president obviously prefers the mugshot taken in Atlanta's Fulton County jail, where he was booked on charges of plotting to overturn Georgia's 2020 election result on Thursday.

Within minutes of the picture being released, it appeared on Mr Trump's website along with a statement saying he had been arrested despite committing no crime. "What has taken place is a travesty of justice," it said, along with a call for campaign contributions.

Mugshots have destroyed other political careers. For him, it has already become a campaign symbol.

In fact, in a matter of hours his official campaign was selling T-shirts featuring the image. "NEVER SURRENDER," they read. Mugs and stickers are also available.

It is yet another example of how Mr Trump continues to defy political gravity.

We are no longer surprised when his poll ratings rise with each criminal indictment against him. The Georgia charges, after all, were the fourth in five months.

We can also see that the man who may have to spend the better part of next year in a courtroom, not on the campaign trail, is still the clear frontrunner to win the Republican party's presidential nomination for 2024.

He is rewriting the laws of politics right in front of our eyes.

Bar chart showing spikes in daily online donations to Trump's funding committees after he was indicted and then arraigned at the beginning of April and again in June
Bar chart showing spikes in daily online donations to Trump's funding committees after he was indicted and then arraigned at the beginning of April and again in June

Anyone who doubts Mr Trump's continuing grip on the party should watch one moment from Wednesday night's televised Republican debate.

Mr Trump chose to skip the event because he is so far ahead of his rivals he believed he had nothing to gain from being there. Yet he still loomed over the stage.

All eight candidates were asked to raise their hand if they would still support Mr Trump for president if he is found guilty in court. Six hands went up in the air - even if Florida Governor Ron DeSantis conspicuously waited to see what the others did before raising his.

Three quarters of the people running against Mr Trump will not dare to say he should not be president if he has a criminal conviction.

More on Trump and 2024

"Someone's got to stop normalising this conduct, okay?" arch Trump-critic Chris Christie said. "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." He was then practically booed off the stage.

Arguably, Mr Christie has it wrong. The Republican Party is not normalising Mr Trump's conduct. It is celebrating his actions and rewarding him with more support and adulation each time his legal problems become more serious.

"They are not after me, they are after you - I'm just standing in the way," Mr Trump often says. His supporters love that.

It is a phrase I've had repeated back to me around the country. Even though no one is quite sure what it actually means, it encapsulates the idea that he is more than another politician. He presents himself as a potential martyr for his support base.

Mr Trump has an almost unique talent for attracting attention. He is using this moment to suffocate his rivals and opponents by starving them of the oxygen of publicity. He has successfully merged his legal problems with his political campaign - and turned both into a reality TV show.

That is why he brings cameras with him when he is arrested. That is why he called into right-wing TV stations to describe what it was like being booked in a notorious Atlanta jail. And that is why he will use this mugshot as the ultimate accolade.