The mugshot that may change America

Donald Trump has embraced the image, but how will the United States react?

It is the jail mugshot that has ricocheted around the world.

Millions of Americans going through the criminal justice system have endured this particular ordeal - a photographic public shaming ahead of a trial - but never before has a US President faced such a humiliating moment.

But Donald Trump has done a quite extraordinary thing overnight: he has embraced the image, promoted it as a political icon, and judged it to be a gift to his presidential campaign.

He looks angry, defiant, ready for revenge.

The former President has shared the image with his 100 million social media followers, even posting on X, formerly known as Twitter, for the first time in several years.

Astonishingly, he sees his Atlanta jail visit as a badge of honour. It is also a fund-raising tool that has caught fire overnight. The mugshot will be appearing on T-shirts and political merchandise in vast quantities.

Never before has a single image been adopted by both sides.

His son, Donald Trump Jr, even posted the mugshot with a threat; warning that his father will launch retribution just as soon as he wins back the White House.

Outside the jail last night there was only a gaggle of Trump ultra loyalists. But their passion and belief in the former president was undeniable.

Another feature of political life was striking last night: that America’s cable TV news channels exist on entirely different planets.

Left-wing TV shows were giddy at the humiliation of their nemesis. MSNBC hosts were laughing and mocking Trump over the personal details he had provided on the rap sheet, ranging from his hair colour to his weight.

Switch channels and conservative TV programmes were grimly warning that justice has become weaponised and America was on the brink of a major crisis.

This is Trump’s fourth arrest in five months. He faces 91 criminal charges in total.

For anyone else, this would be a personal and political catastrophe, with the possibility of spending the rest of his life behind bars.

'It's all false charges': Trump's supporters refuse to concede the former president may have done wrong

Donald Trump sees it entirely differently. He judges it to be his route back to the White House, so long as he can persuade a majority of Americans that he is the victim.

That’s the gamble he is taking. When Americans stare back at that defiant-looking mugshot, what do they see?

A criminal defendant who should never serve in high office again?

Or a political martyr who is fighting a left-wing deep-state establishment that is engaged in an outrageous take-down of a political opponent?

Never before has a single image had the potential to determine a presidential election. Until now.

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