Mug shot as a political boost? Some politicians have tried
WASHINGTON (AP) — A celebrity and insatiable publicity hound long before he was president, Donald Trump has been photographed countless times. But never like this.
Now that a New York grand jury has voted to indict him for his role in the payment of hush money to a porn actor, Trump will have to appear at district attorney headquarters in Manhattan to be booked, fingerprinted and get a mug shot taken. The former president, the first ever to be indicted, is expected to surrender to authorities early next week.
New York law discourages the release of mug shots in most cases, though they have leaked in the past. Less clear is whether Trump would seek to have the picture released himself, for political or other reasons. Within minutes of word of his indictment breaking, his 2024 presidential campaign was sending fundraising messages off the news.
Some Trump aides have floated the idea of holding a post-booking press conference — a political trail blazed by Texas Gov. Rick Perry when he surrendered to authorities for his own mug shot in 2014.
Indeed, what is a moment of shame for many accused hasn’t always been that for politicians. Some have offered large smiles — or at least defiant smirks. They’ve tried to frame the moment as a political boon, looking to boost their popularity with supporters who see them as being unfairly targeted.
Here’s a look at how some notable politicians handled their own mug shots:
A SMIRK AND A SOFT-SERVE CONE
Clad in a snappy dark suit, white shirt and blue tie, Perry removed his then-signature black glasses — as mandated by county rules — and offered a smirking half smile in his 2014 mug shot.
The Republican was facing abuse of power charges over a veto that prosecutors said he issued to settle political scores. But the governor did his best to convey that he considered the case a waste of time.
A group of cheering supporters gathered outside and, when he emerged, Perry told them, “We will prevail.” He then went for vanilla ice cream at a nearby soft-serve joint in Austin, Texas, and tweeted a photo of himself and his lawyers hoisting their own cones under the caption, “And then, ice cream.”
Noting the governor’s posturing, the Democratic National Committee responded, “This may be a sideshow to Rick Perry but no amount of spin can cover up two felony charges.”
Perry was looking to build momentum for a 2016 presidential run that ultimately fizzled in a matter of months — much like the case against him, which never went to trial.
PUTTING ON A HAPPY FACE
While he didn’t mark the occasion with a press conference, another Texas Republican, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, also saw political opportunity in his mug shot.
Indicted in Houston in 2005 on accusations of money laundering, DeLay wore a dark suit with his gold House security pin still attached and offered such a wide and toothy mug shot grin that it looked like the resulting photo could have been affixed to a campaign poster. He was convicted, but the verdict was later overturned on appeal.
Also smiling broadly in his mug shot was 2004 Democratic vice presidential nominee and North Carolina Sen. John Edwards. Edwards, who wore a white shirt and blue tie in his 2011 mug shot, was charged with using nearly $1 million in funds from his 2008 presidential campaign to help cover up an extramarital affair. He was acquitted of one charge, and the jury deadlocked on others.
The smile was less deliberate for former Attorney General John Mitchell, who offered a confused-looking half grin, wearing a shirt and tie but no jacket when he was booked in 1974. Mitchell was eventually convicted of conspiracy, perjury and obstruction of justice related to the Watergate scandal that brought down President Richard Nixon. Once the nation’s top law enforcement officer, Mitchell ultimately served 19 months in prison.
Not every politician sees criminal charges as a boost to their political future, though.
Idaho Republican Sen. Larry Craig was arrested in 2007 by a plainclothes police officer in a men’s bathroom at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct. The officer said Craig tapped his foot and signaled under the stall that he wanted sex.
Craig looked exceedingly uncomfortable in his mug shot in a suit, a tie and an American flag lapel pin — offering a tight-lipped look and wearing glasses that threw back deep light reflections.
Craig appeared to be aware that his political career was effectively over. Although he later sought unsuccessfully to rescind his guilty plea and rebuffed calls from his own party to resign his Senate seat, Craig opted not to seek reelection in 2008.
Looking equally troubled was Democratic Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who wore a blue jogging suit, his famous black hair decidedly less poufy than usual, as he peered impassively into the camera shortly after federal agents showed up around 6 a.m. to arrest him.
Serving his second term, Blagojevich was arrested in 2008 and accused of trying to sell the Senate seat that Barack Obama vacated when he won the White House. He was convicted and sentenced to 14 years in federal prison — until Trump commuted his sentence in 2020.
Blagojevich kept his sense of humor, though.
When New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez was detained last summer while decrying the Supreme Court overturning the Roe v. Wade decision in Washington, she was pictured holding her hands behind her back as if handcuffed — except she wasn’t wearing restraints.
Blagojevich tweeted a picture of Ocasio-Cortez alongside his own mug shot under the caption, “At least when I get arrested, I get arrested for real!”