Trump’s Mugshot: Viral Moments Aren’t Just For Influencers

A graphic showing Donald Trump with a cross expression Photo credit: Roberta Macedo

Former President Donald Trump is the first in the nation’s history to have sat for both a presidential portrait and a criminal mugshot.

The image went viral after being released to the public on Aug. 24. He was booked in an Atlanta jail in Fulton County in connection to his criminal case for his alleged efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election results.

“Presidents have now been charged with an average of two crimes per person,” Gregory Koger, a political science professor at UM, said. “Only one president has ever been charged. And it’s Donald Trump. For 90 different counts. It’s a serious step for American democracy to prosecute an ex-president.”

Since the mugshot’s release, the former president has been the brunt of thousands of memes on social media.

“The mugshot…obviously I was excited for that. Because it’s hilarious,” senior media scoring and production major Florence Hughes said. “I think my initial reaction was to put the meme on my ‘close friend’s’ Instagram story.”

Several public figures have also capitalized on the notorious image, including 90s punk band Green Day, selling limited-edition shirts with the word “nimrod” plastered over Trump’s face. The proceeds of the band’s sales will be donated to the victims of the Maui wildfires.

“I think it’s a good thing for people to find the fun in politics. Humor helps us deal with the gravity of the situation,” Koger said.

The Republican front-runner’s fundraising efforts have seen a $9.4 million increase since he was processed in Georgia. The day after the mugshot’s release, Trump’s campaign raised $4.18 million – the most he has raised in a 24-hour period.

“The Trump campaign is selling memorabilia with the mugshot. You can literally get a coffee mug with the mugshot on it,” Koger said.

Among the trending hashtags and circulation of the photo on Twitter’s re-invented platform “X,” Trump used the mugshot as an opportunity to jump back on the platform.

The post displayed the phrases “ELECTION INTERFERENCE” and “NEVER SURRENDER,” and is his first post in two years since being banned from Twitter for his alleged actions to incite violence during the January 6 insurrection.

“I haven’t really seen his return to Twitter, but I don’t think that matters that much because people who agree with him aren’t even on Twitter. I think they’re still in the Truth Social realm,” Hughes said.

His case in Georgia is the second of four total indictments that have emerged over the past year. The other indictments include the January 6 insurrection case (U.S. District Court, Washington D.C.), the classified documents case (U.S. District Court, Southern Florida) and the hush money case (State Court, New York).

“On one hand, opponents of Donald Trump see the mugshot and think ‘he’s being treated like the criminal I’ve long believed him to be’,” Koger said. “To his supporters on the other hand, it has a completely different meaning. They think ‘here’s our guy, being hounded by big government because he fights so hard for us.’”

For each of these cases to reach the indictment stage, a prosecutor presented evidence to a grand jury to aid them in deciding whether the defendant should be formally accused of the crime.

There is a long road ahead for Trump with each of these cases, many of which could interfere with his presidential campaign efforts in the upcoming year.

“A lot of 2024 will be news coverage of Donald Trump going from one trial to the next. At the same time, he’s going to be competing in Republican primaries, and if polls stay the way they are, he’s going to win them.” Koger said.

As of right now, his dedicated voter base remains unwavering, and several of his 2024 competitors admitted in the Aug. 23 GOP debate that they will still support Trump if he wins the nomination, with the exception of Asa Hutchinson, former governor of Arkansas, and Chris Christie, the former governor of New Jersey.

The topic of Trump’s indictments was a notably uncomfortable subject for the candidates in the debate, with Chris Christie, the former governor of New Jersey, being the outlier and attacking the former president.

“I don’t know if it’s going to help or harm the campaign. Obviously it’s going to harm it, but because of the bizarreness of the whole situation, it’s going to help him a little bit in a way.” Hughes said.

It’s no secret that Donald Trump remains unconventional in his approach to navigating today’s political environment. His history in the business world has proven to be a key factor in his ability to spin viral moments into exposure and financial opportunities, yet his political future remains uncertain.

“If he does in fact get the nomination, he may have to finish out the general election from a jail cell,” Koger said.