Aug 26, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Trump's mug shot strategy: He posted it on X for clicks

Former President Trump speaks to reporters at Atlanta's airport after being booked at the Fulton County jail on Thursday. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Former President Trump's surprise post of his mug shot on the social platform formerly known as Twitter was done because he wanted the image to reach a huge audience, his aides tell Axios.

Why it matters: It was the first time in more than 2 1/2 years that Trump posted on Elon Musk's platform now known as X — and was a signal that Trump might resume posting on the platform that was his main megaphone before and during his presidency.

  • Trump's team already is using Thursday's mug shot on campaign merchandise and multi-platform fundraising appeals that claim he's being prosecuted unfairly.
  • Trump aides said his own Truth Social platform will continue to be his focus — but they didn't rule out Trump returning to Musk's platform, where millions more people are likely to see his posts.
  • "I will leave it to President Trump to decide how he wants to use his social media accounts," one aide said. "Stay tuned."

Before Thursday, Trump hadn't posted on Twitter/X since Jan. 8, 2021 — two days after the Capitol riot — but he still has 87 million followers there, the ninth-most of anyone on the platform.

  • That's far more than the roughly 6.4 million followers Trump has on his Truth Social network, where he now posts regularly.
  • X's audience will be particularly tempting for Trump while he's wrapped up in four felony trials and a campaign for president.

Zoom in: Trump first posted his mug shot on Truth Social late Thursday — just after surrendering to authorities in Fulton County, Ga., where he's accused of leading a criminal enterprise that tried to overturn the 2020 election results in Georgia.

  • Minutes later Trump tweeted his mug shot from his dormant account on X. By late Friday it had 1.4 million "likes."
  • Three hours after the tweet, Trump returned to Truth Social with a message to supporters who had followed him to his platform.
  • "I LOVE TRUTH SOCIAL. IT IS MY HOME," Trump wrote.
  • According to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Trump is obligated to post on Truth Social exclusively unless it is about political matters.

As of late Friday he hadn't posted on X again, but was continuing to do so on Truth Social.

  • He complained about being prosecuted, criticized Fox News' ratings for the GOP presidential debate he skipped this week — and reposted his own post with the mug shot and a fundraising appeal.

Flashback: Under Twitter's previous ownership, Trump was banned on Jan. 8, 2021, over his actions on Jan. 6 that led his supporters to storm the Capitol to try to stop Congress' certification of the election results.

  • Less than a year later Trump launched his own platform, Truth Social, and it became his main way to message his conservative base.
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