The Snap and the Scowl: The Trump Mugshot Ignites a Tinderbox Nation

We often discuss the long-standing question of whether it is better for your client to smile or not smile in a mugshot. Some believe a smile conveys a lack of contrition while others view a frown as looking guilty. In the first mugshot of a former American president, Trump (or now Inmate P01135809) rejected both the “carefree smile” and the “disapproving frown” and went with seething scowl. It is a mugshot that unfortunately will resonate with both extremes in our political system.

In Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus, the devil Mephistopheles (Marlowe spells the name “Mephistophilis”) shows him Helen of Troy, “the face who launched a thousand ships” that released a firestorm.

The Scowl is likely to launch millions of ships . . . all in the wrong directions.

For District Attorney Fani Willis and many of her supporters, the mugshot clearly holds a type of trophy kill appeal worthy of framing and mounting on a wall. This is one of those moments long portrayed on teeshirts and other merchandise for many on the left.

For many Trump supporters, it is a moment of gratuitous insult of a president who is now being prosecuted in four different states just before an election where he is the leading Republican candidate.  For the most extreme, it will be portrayed as a virtual declaration of war, proof that the establishment will use every means to prevent another 2016 populist victory.

It is noteworthy that, like his critics, Trump is already selling merchandise with the mugshot and a “Never Surrender” slogan.

In that way, the mugshot will be the rallying cry at both extremes in our political system.

For that reason, I believe the mugshot was a mistake, an inflammatory moment wisely avoided in New York by another Democratic prosecutor. It is entirely unnecessary for the most recognized face in the United States.

The fact, however, is that many on both sides relish the rage. I have previously said that the most unnerving fact of what I have called “the age of rage” is that people secretly enjoy it. Rage is addictive. It allows people to say and do things that they would ordinarily avoid in public. It is a license to hate blindly and excuse all means to achieve an end.

I think that the Georgia, New York, and federal January 6th indictments are unwarranted and threaten free speech. Moreover, it is valid for many to object that these prosecutions could have occurred years ago, but were launched just before the presidential election so that Trump will be running from court to court through the general election.

It is also true that the Mar-a-Lago case is more serious and more substantive . . . and that threat is continuing to grow as a threat for Trump as witnesses change their testimony and Trump aides confirm key prosecution claims.

Likewise, while I believe the case against Trump in the Georgia indictment is weak, there are defendants in that case that face stronger claims on specific election-related crimes.

Of course, in an age of rage, reason is the first to die. We cannot allow that to happen;  we cannot allow rage addicts to drive our political or legal processes. We have the greatest legal system in the world. We will sort out these issues from the criminalization of political speech to the claim that Trump can be barred from the ballot even without a charge or conviction.

Courts are likely to divide on these issues. However, we remain a nation of laws. That tradition takes a certain leap of faith. We do not support that system only when we prevail. That is the view of court packers like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.,Y.). Notably, Ocasio-Cortez even said that she does not understand why we need a Supreme Court.

Even law professors and legal commentators have called our Constitution “trash” and called for the country to “reclaim America from constitutionalism.” That is the greatest danger of these times: that our deep divisions will cause us to lose faith in our defining values and in each other.

The Trump mugshot captures a defining moment for our country. It will define us. I believe that it is paramount that appellate courts consider the merits of the free speech and other challenges to the Georgia, New York, and federal cases. That may be difficult if judges support these prosecutors in demanding trials before constitutional appeals are taken. Appellate judges could agree, in good faith, that challenges are premature before any convictions.

The important thing is for citizens not to be played as chumps. We will sort this out. The courts will address these important legal issues as citizens resolve the equally important political issues raised by these prosecutions.

The merchandising and madness aside, we have more matters to resolve . . . together.


This column appeared on

441 thoughts on “The Snap and the Scowl: The Trump Mugshot Ignites a Tinderbox Nation”

  1. Despite years of Biden family and media disinformation, we are finally learning that President Joe Biden really did fire Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin for looking into state corruption involving the oil company Burisma and Hunter Biden — and ultimately Joe Biden himself. As vice president, Biden, in his own words, bragged that he had threatened to cancel the deliverance of American foreign aid to Ukraine unless Shokin was dismissed.

    So what is Congress to do now — un-impeach and exonerate an innocent impeached Donald Trump, and instead impeach a guilty Biden for essentially the same allegations? After all, the Left redefined the impeachment bar in 2019 as leveraging foreign aid to Ukraine to benefit one’s political career. And that is exactly what Joe Biden did to ensure his son could continue to raise millions for the Biden family with foreign governments, while being shielded from political consequences.

    An impeached Trump also was accused of using the power of government to go after his likely 2020 presidential rival by suggesting that Joe Biden and his family were corrupt, and should be investigated by Ukrainian officials for fraud and bribery. Despite Joe Biden’s denials, Trump was right: there was plenty of evidence to link Ukrainian unwarranted payoffs going into Biden family coffers. So Trump in 2019 had good reasons to ensure that none of the Bidens were still burrowed deeply into the Ukrainian payoff machine. In contrast, Biden had far less grounds to unleash the full powers of government against his probable 2024 rival ex-president Trump.

    Special Prosecutor Jack Smith is not charging Trump with bribery of the Biden sort. He does not allege that Trump gave special foreign policy preferences for those foreigners who paid his family for such services. Instead, Smith argues that Trump unlawfully took out classified presidential papers –although Joe Biden did nearly the same. Biden kept quiet about his vast removal of classified documents for over a decade. Not until Trump was being investigated did Biden suddenly notify the government of his illegal removals.

    In contrast, a combative and boisterous Trump fought openly and constantly with federal archivists over which of his papers at his Mar-a-Lago estate were truly classified. Prosecutorial leaks floated all sorts of unproven nefarious agendas that had prompted Trump’s disputes over his presidential papers. But no one to this day has seriously asked why senator and then Vice President Biden secretly and weirdly removed and kept such sensitive material for years.

    Recent reports allege that Hunter Biden may have been treated with kid gloves by prosecutors, partly because Hunter’s lawyers had threatened otherwise to call Joe Biden to the stand as a favorable witness. Government prosecutors under pressure from the White House apparently balked at the nightmare of a befuddled president of the United States testifying under oath about the supposed innocence of the very guilty Hunter Biden.

    In truth, the former drug addict Hunter has played lots of such strange games with his own family.

    In his laptop communications, Hunter whined that no one in the family appreciated his hard work at family grifting. He sounded petulant that his father forced him to fork over half his income to the Joe and Jill Biden household. At time of universal scrutiny of Hunter, the last thing any sane first son might do would be to hawk his own childish paintings at exorbitant prices to those wishing to buy influence with his father the president. In effect, Hunter was almost daring the White House to stop his blatant grifting artistry. Instead, the Bidens moved Hunter into the White House, apparently to keep him under closer watch. Hunter is still out of control. He could take the family down with him unless President Biden continues to shield him from prosecution.

    Ironically, the double standard used by Biden and the media to hound Trump has only raised new questions of fairness.

    Why had the Biden family — with its far greater legal exposure — never faced such serial indictments? A Republican House of Representatives had ended prior Democratic protection given to the Bidens. And the Ukraine war has again turned attention to the Biden-Burisma connection and Hunter’s shaking down of Ukrainian officials.

    Finally, Joe Biden can no longer work a full day. He mutters. He stumbles. He serially lies.

    He hijacks solemn occasions commemorating national tragedies by trying to one up the grieving with his own self-absorbed stories — most of them irrelevant and narcissistic half-truths.

    Trump was right. Biden is the criminal and all of his Deep State allies starting with Obama.

  2. I’m voting for DJT so he can fix everything JB has F’d up. I want DJT to burn the whole rotten, corrupt, treasonous house to the ground.

    #FJB, #FMerrickGarland

  3. Anyhow, his plan of naming himself King of America in his coup attempt didn’t work, besides, Trump being a yankee, he should have known better than to mess with those southern boys.

  4. Prod. Turley… I always agree with you 99.9% of the time – but – not to-day.. as Trump’s mugshot is Perfect for a former President of the United States and leading contender of his Party to resume his Presidency, a man who does NOT deserve to be in a mugshot position to begin with. It is a POSITIVE LOOK and any other look would be caving into the same woke system that brought us reactionary USA destroying power-mongers like Obama ( “I don’t need Congress. I have a pen and a phone.”) and Pelosi (ripping up the President’s SOTU speech real-time behind his back) and the Best of them all, the treasonous fraudster Brandon. The merchandising re: this ridiculous situation would happen no matter what…

  5. “we cannot allow rage addicts to drive our political or legal processes.”

    Of course. But, professor, you feed these addicts every day. Hypocrisy is your trade.

    The mug shot is now history. Trump, like any other accused individual was treated like anyone else. That’s the point. Trump is not special. Our justice system is about treating everyone the same regardless of status. People like trump believe they are exempt because they are rich and powerful. That they deserve special considerations. You feed the rage addicts by supporting that notion.

    If it was Biden those on the right would have no problem exploiting a mug shot either. Unfortunately it was Trump who chose to break the law.

  6. “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.

    The American people are on the clock. It’s they who are really on trial here. This country has been smoldering under progressive policies by both major parties for decades to reach this point. In 2016, the people had had enough and the smoldering progressives unleashed their inner communist self in the form of the Democratic party. They have made it very clear who they are and what they will do to anyone that challenges their totalitarian regime. This will be the last election cycle to determine if we are to remain a struggling constitutional republic, or become something else altogether. My guess is that the communists know that our nation’s founding principles are in every citizen’s DNA. While progressives have been very effective at burying those instincts, it will be the communists that will reawaken them.

    1. “My guess is that the communists know that our nation’s founding principles are in every citizen’s DNA. While progressives have been very effective at burying those instincts, it will be the communists that will reawaken them.”

      Playing devil’s advocate: Founding Principles are no longer taught in government schools, Olly. Remember, these are the same people that are telling our impressionable youth their chromosomes and DNA *are* changed by simply wishing them so – *in place of* Founding Principles. Communists won’t even teach, “be kind to one another anyway, even if you don’t really feel like it”. So, it’s not looking good for the unarmed masses who smooch the backsides of government for only one reason: They simply don’t know (yet) how much worse their lives will become when their own government goes too far. Some *will* learn, yes, but only in the hardest way.

      1. Playing devil’s advocate: Founding Principles are no longer taught in government schools,

        JAFO, the only thing that accomplishes is to suppress those natural instincts. They can try all they want to dismiss the DoI as an 18th century relic, but that doesn’t erase the self-evident truths. We were always going to reach this point. Had Clinton won in 2016, the progressives would have been content to continue the slow, fundamental transformation of this country. However, the truly American instincts slammed the door in the progressive’s faces. That was our 2005 War of the Worlds moment. Suddenly communists started popping out of where they’d been buried. They are out in the open attacking everything that has made us who we are. They lost the initiative to slowly continue the transformation they started over 100 years ago. This next year will find Americans discovering their dormant natural instincts to fight back against the regime as peacefully as possible, or it will take longer in a different way. One way or another, we will exert our “natural right to alter or abolish” this form of tyranny. That is a self-evident truth.

        1. Not disagreeing with you, Olly. Just not convinced *enough* current commies will see reality when the system turns on them.

      2. JAFO,
        “They simply don’t know (yet) how much worse their lives will become when their own government goes too far.”
        Agree with you there.
        Although I think some of the pain will not be by anything the government does, but what they do not do aka inaction.
        See Maui as an example.

    2. Olly, you wrote a very pertinent response with a wonderful quote. You get it. Millions more need to get it as well. We are counting on that.

      1. Thanks SM. Tragically, I doubt they will get it until things get bad enough for them. The “train of abuses” doesn’t get long because they get it early on.

  7. Dear Prof Turley,

    I’m convinced somewhere over the rainbow bluebirds fly .. . but the stench wafting over D.C. is so foul birds drop dead just flying over it!

    It is the outrageous disregard of the constitution by officials sworn to uphold it, and corruption of the abiding powers of our Union, that is the most pressing, immediate threat.

    There is no ‘contest’ between the bombastic antics of Trump and the clear abuse by officials holding the reins of state power. Whatever outlandish Trump-speak on X or mugshot scowl in Ga., it pales in comparison, for e.g., to 50 top Intell officials, president Biden and the media writ large declaring the Laptop Russian disinformation.

    The looming disaster in Ukraine, and it’s political implications, will soon be unavoidable. At some point president Biden will have to explain why his $150 billion investment in Zelenskiy regime has failed.

    *Trump, Poncho and Lefty were bandits .. . ‘all the Federales say they could have had him any day, only let him go so long out of kindness, I suppose.’

    1. Trump had his bust in the oval office and used him as inspiration often, I think that is EXACTLY what he was going for! It is not an unusual face for his character and strength, just like Churchill, very genuine.

  8. Mr Turley’s comment stating “we are a nation of laws” displays a completely naive understanding of how the judicial system in America actually is. The United States is not a Nation of equal protection under the law, and everyday Americans who don’t hold law degrees realize that fact. Corruption of the law exists in every level of the American Justice System. Whether it’s the corrupt municipal judge letting the town mayor off on his DUI charge, or the US Attorney General subverting the law for his boss, the President. If it is not evidently clear by now to Mr. Turkey that there are two tiers of justice in America, he should take down his shingle, and open his eyes to the reality that exists in America’s legal system. A system that clearly applies a
    One tier of law for thee, and another tier of law for me. When ” laws” are applied to those for the political purpose of others unjustly, and unequally, we are a nation of tyranny, not law.

  9. All it will take is one shot. The American revolution started with one shot fired at Concord, and the Civil War started with one shot fired at Tort Sumpter. A standoff could results when an armed local cop with unknown intentions approaches a former President at one of these politically contrived photo-ops and the Secret Service tries to stop him. One shot from either side ignites the tinder box with state vs federal and red state vs blue. The Democrats are F-ing Around in unexplored territory. Bringing us to the brink of nuclear war with their adventures in Ukraine wasn’t enough for these people when a domestic civil war can be created at the same time. FAFO.

  10. Jonathan:

    Ah yes, the mug shot that yesterday I said looked just like Al Capone. Today it don’t look nothin’ like AL Capone. I don’t know how many ships, but what it has done is increased sales of Destroyer by The Kinks. I’s all a Russin skam!

    And I want all your readers to know that I know exactly how long it takes to fly from Bedminster to Atlanta, thats why I repeated it again today. I am a goddam geographical genius!!

    That scowl may have pumped up the magats, but I am here to tell you that Fani gonna spank that fanny!

    Oh yea, for everyone of your readers that probably don’t know this, there are four indictments against DJT. That orange man gonna see how we do it down heah in Jawja!

    Fani don’t need yo personal insults Jonathan. So she don’t know how all that “computer stuff work”, or how her indictment got posted before it was handed down. So what? That don’t mean she aint a brilliant prosecutor. She got a plan I tell ya. She gonna make that orange shrimp turn pink like a lobster!

    I know I like to talk about “debate”, when all I do is come in here and tell a few lies and drop my keyboard diarrhea (it’s somehting my computer ate combimed with a bad case of TDS).

    In my next keyboard diarrhea I will try to bring more “reason” why I am so much smarter than y’all and should be charging you $850 an hour for this.

  11. Or the “scowl” is a perfect symbol of just how much free people should loathe a two-tier justice system.

  12. Dear Professor Turley, For possibly the first time ever, I disagree with you. Perhaps because I am enamored with rage. Or perhaps because I HAVE HAD ENOUGH. I love the mug shot!

  13. Concurrent with Trump being booked and his mugshot being taken, radical criminal POS Joetard tweeted out this message:

    “I spoke with my friend President Zelenskyy today to wish him and the people of Ukraine a happy Independence Day.
    May today be a reminder that the forces of darkness and dominion will never extinguish the flame of liberty that lives in the heart of free people everywhere.”

    You will never read a more-succinct declaration of civil war than that message tweeted out by radical criminal Fake President Joetard.

    1. Biden told us he would “unite” the country.
      Biden is THE MOST DIVISIVE potus we have ever had.
      He is a nasty, disgusting, corrupt liar, and reprehensible human being who deserves to be impeached, convicted and put in prison for the few years he has left.
      Let the POS rot in prison, next to his degenerate POS son.

        1. I didn’t believe you so I clicked on the link above. What sort of people, what sort of mindset must one have to contribute to candidates like this? And yes, ten minutes after slobbering all over himself abut Ukraine. These folks see the world so differently than the way a conservative Christian like myself views the country and the world. These are times that try a man’s soul.

        2. In case anyone is still wondering whether Fani Willis is colluding with the Biden admin & whether they’re deliberately weaponizing govt to attack their political enemy and then laughing about it because they know Republicans will do nothing about it. @Liz_Wheeler

  14. Merrick Garland violates the law. Turley has pointed out several times now that Weiss CANNOT be appointed Special Counsel, and yet you have 50 Democrat Senators, all Dem members of the House of Reps, not objecting to Garland’s appointment. Joe Biden doesn’t know what part of the planet he is on at most moments of time, and his ‘leadership’ as POTUS will be written about in the future by objective journalists —not kindly I would guess.

    Merrick Garland blatantly violates the law — at what point do the 74 million people who voted for Trump in 2020 get angry at what has been done to them and their beliefs.

      1. Annonymous: Durham had already notified DOJ of his retirement plans. If it was done correctly, when he did the investigation, he would already have taken his retirement. If not, you are correct. If so, your argument would not apply

      2. Speaking of Durham .. . whatever happened to his report?

        *iirc, it pretty much said the whole Trump pee-tape Russian investigation(s) had no ‘legitimate basis’

  15. Sorry Professor Turley we are no longer a nation of laws. Check out the border. Review the events surrounding Hunter Biden. Remember the riots of 2020. Watch videos of shopping malls being pillaged. Think about Hilary Clinton The Democratic Party has transformed America into the land of the lawless

  16. “…we cannot allow rage addicts to drive our political or legal processes.” Um, waaay too late, Professor. The ‘addicts’ started years ago. Obama amplified and effectively green-lit like-minded political types to follow his lead when he said, “I don’t need Congress. I have a pen and a phone.” Surely, Turley, you knew then what Obama, the community-rabble-rouser-at-heart, intended by that statement. The genie is out of the bottle, Counselor.

  17. Jonathan: Ah yes, the mug shot that launched a thousand ships and DJT’s latest merchandise scam. “Seething scowl” and defiance perfectly describes DJT’s mug shot. On the 21/2 flight from Bedminster to Atlanta DJT had a long time to think about how he would pose for the mug shot. No doubt he thought a scowl would appeal and further incite his MAGA supporters. I went online to find a similar mug shot of other famous criminals. None came close to DJT’s scowl–not even Al Capone. He was dressed for the occasion with his signature fedora.

    In a gratuitous insult directed at DA Fani Willis you say she will hold the mug shot as “a type of trophy kill…worthy of framing and mounting on a wall”. In the same breath you deplore the “age of rage” because “reason is the first to die. We cannot allow that to happen”. Personal insults directed at Willis would not seem the way to promote more “reason” in the debate over the four criminal indictments of DJT and his co-defendants.

    In my next comment I will try to bring more “reason” to that debate.

    1. , the mug shot that launched a thousand ships and DJT’s latest merchandise scam.

      Merchandise scam?

      What are you talking about. Or are freely exhibiting you lack the vocabulary of a 3rd grader?

    2. Dennis shows up with more lies today. Well done Dennis. Yesterday, Dennis said Trump’s mugshot looked just like Al Capone’s. Today he specifically says it does not look like Al Capone’s.

      Which one is the lie, Dennis?

      I think Dennis’ boy Dick Head is gonna have more to say on the subject.

      At least Dennis learned how to spell “scam” in English since yesterday.

  18. ORANGE 🍊 is the New RED, WHITE, and BLUE ! 🇺🇸

    I think Donald Trump has found his Vice President in Tucker Carlson !

    If Tucker’s is willing to hang on too the Windstorm that’s going to happen,
    part of which They Both understand as Media Personalities. Tucker would make a great V.P.
    He know many of the D.C. Players and has a grounded Republican perspective.
    A Trump/Carlson Ticket would go the distance. And that, if I were Hillary and the DNC would scare the hell out of me.

    Trump/Carlson in 2024 🇺🇸

    The GOP Debate-1 (August 23rd. 2023 ~ Milwaukee WI)

    I found that only one question really had any meat in it. That was: What to do about Ukraine?
    Asa, Pence, Haley had well seasoned D.C. neo-con opinions, whereas Vivek Ramaswamy and Ron Desantis had unseasoned D.C. Homeland-First stances that were strong. That may well be the deciding factor of back-end-support from the Deep State Overlords of the New World Order.

    Mike Pence surprised me, I had pretty much written him off as a Player, he is a ‘Classic Presidential Figure’.
    North Dakota’s Governor Doug Burgum was also an ‘introverted-surprise’, I think he has a lot to offer nervously bottled up inside him, but the Debate Platform wasn’t his venue, he choked a-little-bit, but not as bad as Ron Desantis.

    Tim Scott is definitely V. P. material. He has the domestic agenda down pat. He’d be a good player in the Senate and House of Reps.
    Chris Christie, He upped his game with this Debate. here too I was writing him off as a Micheal Cohen schmuck, but he really came around.
    Don’t no why(?) but Chris Christie reminds me of John Madden, the kind of Guy you’d want to watch an NFL Football Game with.

    Nikki Halley, was spot on the Center-Line. We need her. If the Dems run Hillary or Kamala or Warren, then She’s the GOP V.P. counter Ticket,
    and that’s a very important aspect of 2024 not to be dismissed.

    The Next Debate should be good, Personally I think all of the Candidates should have a 2nd round, but the RNC has a vetting process based on polling-percentages and then makes the Cuts. Also I hope they invite Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to join the debate. Why Not(?), granted He’s not a GOP Guy but He’s very relevant to the Domestic debate. And He also may become the Third Party Candidate. The DNC is giving RFK the Tulsi Gabard treatment.
    So an invitation would demonstrate that the GOP Party can be innovation for sure, plus It’s kind of an insult to the DNC. An invitation can’t hurt, and at the very least He can be in the Audience. The GOP Party needs to up its Game.

    The Republican National Committee (RNC) will hold its second presidential primary debate on Wednesday Sept. 27 in Simi Valley, California at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute.

    P.S. – Chris Christie if your reading this, We’re a available:
    The 104th season of the National Football League (NFL). The season will begin on Thursday, September 7, 2023, with defending Super Bowl LVII champion Kansas City hosting Detroit in the NFL Kickoff Game.

Leave a Reply