But Thursday, he was never more common, and it just might be the thing for which he’s remembered most. His lifelong presentation of opulence was overshadowed by a booking photo taken at the Fulton Count Sheriff’s Office. Trump made history by becoming the first current or former U.S. president to get his mug shot taken. For his attempts to overturn the 2020 election results, he was arrested and booked at an Atlanta jail. Now social media, the history books and the memory of the nation has an image of Trump that figures to trump all images.
There was no hair and makeup stylist standing by. There was no advanced lighting for the most flattering appearance. There was no background to provide context and flair. There was just the index finger of a deputy sheriff, the fraction of a second he had to pose and a backdrop of infamy.
The dour look Trump wore for his mugshot was a far cry from that of the powerful, give-‘em-hell, image-conscious celebrity who rose to the presidency and altered the nations political landscape. Thursday’s historic snapshot was far greater than a dreary, photo-op-gone wrong for Trump, however. Since George Washington ascended to the most powerful job in America, and arguably the world, never before has a president – sitting or former – been indicted as a criminal defendant. More than 230 years of history has assuredly produce a lot of criminal shenanigans by the Commander In Chief. But Trump has managed to break that winning streak of the Oval Office. He is literally out on bail.
The regard for elected officials, especially their morality and leadership, is undoubtedly at an all-time low. Even the mighty office of the President of the United States, often dubbed the “leader of the free world,” has lost some of its luster. (Trump had a hand in that.) Still, it’s the presidency. As long as there is an America, the president will hold a level of reverence and respect. The person occupying the White House is our version of royalty. Yes, we love a down-to-earth type who feels like one of us in the big chair. For sure, we want the president to be the best, most humble, more virtuous version of ourselves. But, nonetheless, a man of the people. (Or woman of the people, when they finally summon the courage to elect a woman.) Someone who epitomizes the values and ideals of every American. But even with that, a level of regality is expected. Which is why we as taxpayers fund their posh lives even well after they leave the office.
The president shouldn’t be getting fingerprinted at a local jail where car jackers, drug dealers and bar brawlers get their comeuppance.
But Trump leaned into the man-of-the-people part with the mugshot of all mugshots. Because of the post he held, because of his stature, he’s surpassed every other mugshot.
Trump has a legal headache that is the envy of no one. He is being pursued by prosecutors in both the federal jurisdiction and two separate states. A staggering 91 felony charges have been levied against him across four separate indictments — in New York, Washington D.C., Florida and now Georgia. His arrest and subsequent release after posting a $200,000 bond made the gravity of his legal assault palpable.
And Georgia is especially problematic for Trump. President Joe Biden, or any future president, cannot pardon crimes at the state level. There is no presidential “undo” button, no way to fire a prosecutor to halt the proceedings, no extrajudicial way to stop the Peach State’s charges. This is a reckoning that will be fought in the courthouse, not from the White House.
Georgia also allows us to bear witness to the process. Unlike federal courts, and New Your state, Fulton County permits cameras in court. There is a real possibility that cameras will give us this generation’s O.J. Simpson trial of 1995. Americans tuned in and watched a real-life courtroom drama unfold, “starring” a beloved former NFL running back accused of a double murder. More than 150 million people tuned into watch the verdict – more than half of the nation’s population at the time.
It is immaterial whether you view Thursday’s historic booking of the former president as a political witch hunt or a long-awaited reckoning. For the most part, our collective minds are already made up on how we view Trump. Either way, this is American history in real time.
Trump deserves the presumption of innocence until a jury of his peers finds him otherwise — as does every American. At the same time, we must support the rule of law and the ideal that no one person is immune to consequences of their actions. It should require irrefutable proof be delivered that those actions violated the law. Now it plays out.
For years, the idea of prosecuting the president has been more of an ideological debate. It has been theoretical, philosophical, as Trump’s actions are weighed in the public space. From allegations of collusion with Russia, to sexual assault charges, to bribing a porn star, to the riot at the Capitol, the thought of the American justice system reaching into the Oval Office has been but a threat.
But Thursday, in a county jail, it became real. The president was arrested, booked and bailed out. History was made.
And the mugshot to mark the occasion makes sure this moment will live in infamy.
Paul George is the copy editor of The Express. Follow him @paulgeorgePIO.