He quickly became the biggest thing on social media with the release of his historic mug shot. Although he has been indicted four times this year, the Georgia case is the first with a booking photo.
While plenty of Trump’s critics were eagerly awaiting the mug shot, Trump and his presidential campaign decided to embrace the notoriety, as well.
He returned to his onetime favorite social media platform, which is now known as X, for the first time since he was kicked off it in January 2021. Trump posted his mug shot, a link to his website and the words: “ELECTION INTERFERENCE” and “NEVER SURRENDER!”
His campaign quickly started selling mug shot T-shirts, and Trump senior adviser Chris LaCivita tweeted a warning to any “scammers” who might try to raise money off the photo: “WE ARE COMING AFTER YOU,” he wrote, adding, “you will NOT SCAM DONORS.”
“He’s defiant,” an aide traveling with Trump said of the former president’s mood Thursday night.
Andrew Surabian, a GOP strategist and former Trump White House official, seemed to revel in the attention around Trump a day after the debate in a post on X: “How small and irrelevant does last night’s entire GOP debate feel right now?”
Trump skipped the first GOP presidential primary debate, reasoning that he didn’t need to stand up there with eight of his rivals because he is so far ahead in the polls.
Instead, he taped an interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson that was released right around the start time of the faceoff in Milwaukee.
In the chat, Trump discussed potential civil war, how convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein died in prison and whether he’s concerned about potentially getting assassinated.
Most of his rivals did their best Wednesday night to avoid attacking Trump, the front-runner, in his absence, with most of them raising their hand and saying they would support him if he is convicted of a crime and also becomes the party’s presidential nominee.
Even though Trump’s legal troubles may be a problem if he’s in the general election, many of the GOP candidates have decided that in the primary campaign, they don’t stand to gain by going after them.
The latest NBC News/Des Moines Register/Mediacom poll found that 54% of likely Iowa GOP caucusgoers said they were less likely to vote for a candidate who aggressively attacks Trump for the actions that led the multiple indictments against him, compared with just 16% who are likelier to vote for such a candidate.
Trump left jail Thursday on a $200,000 bond. He and 18 other people — including his former chief of staff Mark Meadows and his former attorney Rudy Giuliani — face racketeering charges in Georgia for allegedly scheming to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
Trump also faces federal charges for allegedly mishandling classified documents after he left the White House and attempting to overturn the 2020 election results, as well as charges in a New York case around purported efforts to cover up hush money payments to a porn star.
The contrast between Trump’s world and that of the other GOP candidates Thursday couldn’t have been starker. Many of them were off the trail after their big night, while Trump’s closest rival, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, was at the Field of Dreams in Iowa throwing softballs and listening to “Sweet Caroline,” with the lyrics, “Good times never seemed so good.”
POST AUTHOR: Amanda Terkel and Kristen Welker and Dan Gallo