First came the flash, then team Trump pressed print on mugshot merchandise

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Atlanta, Georgia: As soon as the flash went off, history was made.

There he was, America’s 45th president, his face like stone as he scowled at the camera, lips pursed, eyebrow raised: his photo both a symbol of legal accountability and defiance in the face of the law.

Donald Trump in his mugshot as he’s booked in Georgia.

It’s hard to know what Donald Trump was thinking at that moment he became the first US president to ever have his mugshot taken, searing his image as a charged man onto the public record forever.

But whatever happens in any of the four looming trials against him, this is the picture that will come to define the 2024 US election. It cements his status among Republicans as a victim and among Democrats as an alleged criminal whose time has come.

After the mugshot came the merchandise. No sooner had the image been released, Trump’s face was being sold on T-shirts, cups and stubby holders emblazoned with the words “Never Surrender!” as part of the latest fundraising blitz to support his campaign to return to the White House.

“This mugshot will go down in history as a symbol of America’s defiance of tyranny,” his campaign said in a fundraising email with the subject heading “Breaking News: The Mugshot Is Here”.

Donald Trump’s mugshot immediately prompted merchandise for his election campaign.

“Please make a contribution of $47 to prove that you will also never surrender our mission – and we will send you a free T-shirt with president Trump’s official mugshot on it.”

The Biden administration was equality opportunistic, albeit less overt, putting out a fundraising email while Trump was being booked, with the subject headline “Apropos of Nothing”.

“Today is a good day to give to my campaign,” it simply said, soliciting donations from $US25 to more than $US500.

Biden, holidaying at California’s Lake Tahoe, later emerged from a spin class and told reporters he saw Trump’s photo on television.

US President Joe Biden talks with reporters after taking a pilates and spin class in Lake Tahoe, California.Credit: AP

“Handsome guy, wonderful guy,” he said with a smile, when asked what he thought.

But even with Trump’s trademark bravado, his surrender to authorities in Georgia – and he did surrender, despite what the T-shirt says – over an alleged conspiracy to subvert the 2020 election must have been jarring for a man who campaigned for office that year as a “law and order president”.

The former real estate mogul and reality TV star wasn’t accustomed to the inside of a prison – let alone a prison as notoriously filthy and violent as the Fulton County Jail in Atlanta.

Indeed, shortly after returning to the sanctity of his Bedminster Golf Club in New Jersey after being booked, Trump admitted in interviews on right-wing cable networks that he found the experience “very sad”, “uncomfortable” and something “I never thought I’d have to go through”.

At one point, he even claimed that he had “never heard the word mugshot” until recently.

“They didn’t teach me that in the Wharton School of Finance,” he told Newsmax’s Greg Kelly, a reference to the University of Pennsylvania college where Trump graduated in 1968.

Trump is renowned as someone who likes to be in control. Having had to relinquish it within the confines of the jail on Friday (AEST), the former president and his team wasted no time reclaiming the narrative.

About two hours after he surrendered and posted $US200,000 bail, Trump returned to Twitter, now known as X, to post the infamous mugshot and a link to his fundraising page.

It was the first time he’d been on the platform since January 8, 2021, when Twitter suspended him indefinitely amid fears he would incite additional violence following the deadly US Capitol riot.

X owner Elon Musk reinstated Trump’s account in November after taking over the company, but the former president had opted to stay on his own Truth Social platform instead. Much has clearly changed since then.

All of Trump’s 18 alleged co-defendants in the Georgia case surrendered by the Friday deadline set by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis.

Jeffrey Clark, the former high-ranking Justice Department official who allegedly conspired with Trump to overturn the election results in Georgia, surrendered shortly after him.

Mugshots of Donald Trump and 11 of the 18 people charged with him. Top row from second left: Ray Smith, Rudy Giuliani, Jenna Ellis. Middle row from left: Sidney Powell, Cathy Latham, Kenneth Chesebro. Bottom row from left: David Shafer, Scott Hall, John Eastman, Harrison Floyd, Mark Meadows.Credit: Reuters

The last two defendants, former Kanye West publicist Trevian Kutti and Illinois pastor Stephen Lee, turned themselves in. Their charges are linked to efforts to pressure an elderly election poll worker to make false statements about her role in helping administer the 2020 election.

The question now is whether any co-defendant will flip on their former commander-in-chief. Earlier in the week, three Georgia Republicans, who falsely claimed to be electors for Trump and are now charged alongside him, said they took the steps they did because the then-president and his legal team directed them to.

Their claim was made in a series of court filings for former state Republican chair David Shafer, state senator Shawn Still and local party official Cathleen Latham.

With 15 months until the 2024 presidential election, Trump faces four separate trials: one in New York over alleged hush money payments; another in Florida over classified documents; one in Washington for his role in trying to stop Biden’s victory from being certified; and now Georgia.

Despite being charged with a total of 91 criminal offences across four jurisdictions, he remains the overwhelming frontrunner to win the Republican presidential nomination next year, and set up a potential rematch with Biden.

And diehard fans – such as those who gathered outside the jail for his surrender, or at the first Republican primary debate in Wisconsin the night before – believe he can win.

“He’s the only person that’s gonna be able to turn America around,” supporter Dan Henning told this masthead.

“We had the safest border when Trump was in, and you look at it now. It’s just shameful. We’re one of the most indebted nations on Earth, we can’t look after our homeless, and we have a two-tiered justice system. What’s happening to America is just horrific.”

Former vice president Mike Pence (left), Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy and former UN ambassador Nikki Haley raise hands in support of Trump at the first Republican debate.Credit: AP/Morry Gash

It’s Trump’s strong base that has made his party rivals so reluctant to criticise him. He chose to skip the first debate, citing his extraordinary lead in the polls, but one of the most telling moments came when Fox News moderators Brett Baier asked the candidates on stage if they would support Trump as nominee even if he was convicted.

Six out of eight put up a hand: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, former UN ambassador Nikki Haley, former vice president Mike Pence, senator Tim Scott and North Dakota Governor Doug Bergum. Only two – former governors Chris Christie and Asa Hutchinson – declined.

“Someone’s got to stop normalising this conduct,” Christie said amid a chorus of boos from the audience at the Fivers Forum in Milwaukee.

Back in Georgia, all 19 mugshots are in – and the legal maneuvering has begun. Willis had initially proposed a March 2024 start date for the trial and had wanted to prosecute all defendants at once.

But co-defendant and former Trump lawyer Kenneth Chesebro foiled that plan when he requested a speedy trial, which forced Willis, under Georgia law, to respond with an earlier date. When she nominated October 23 this year, Trump’s lawyers filed a motion to sever their man from Chesebro’s case – and won.

It was another typical sign of a history-making former president who rarely backs down without a fight.

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