The walls are closing in on Donald Trump, who made history this week as the first American president, former or serving, to face criminal charges. But it’s still too early to celebrate, as he might Houdini his way out of this one, too, and walk free, or worse yet: win the next presidential election.
As cameras were not permitted into the New York courtroom where Trump was arraigned on April 4, few had the distinct pleasure of witnessing this historic moment up close. One of those people was veteran courtroom artist Jane Rosenberg, whose sketch of a despondent Trump went viral online and will soon grace the cover of the New Yorker.
The sketch shows Trump, arms crossed, half-eyeing Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg with disdain. Visible in the background is Justice Juan M. Merchan, the judge overseeing the case, and other security men and court clerks.
“Trump was looking glaringly at the district attorney as he was reading the indictment. I had to get that expression,” Rosenberg told me in a phone interview. “He looked pissed off; he wasn’t happy to be there.”
With over 40 years of experience in the business, Rosenberg’s track record includes sketches of high-profile felons such as El Chapo, Harvey Weinstein, Jeffrey Epstein, Ghislaine Maxwell, Bill Cosby, and others. But this might be her most high-profile gig yet.
“It’s the most pressure I’ve ever had in an assignment,” she said. “The media attention was the biggest I’ve seen.”
The viral sketch — one of two that Rosenberg made during the arraignment — quickly became fodder for satirical online memes.
“I’m used to people mocking my sketches on social media,” she said. “This time it was a combination of mocks, praise, and memes.”
I asked Rosenberg to describe the experience of drawing the famously grotesque ex-president. “Trump is really fun to draw,” she intoned. “He’s got tons of expression on his face and that crazy hair that is almost like a hat.”
“I’m not saying it’s a happy or pleasant face, but he has a unique look that is fun to capture.”
Beyond media outlets, Rosenberg’s work has also been featured in several exhibitions, including the 2017 Drawing Justice: The Art of Courtroom Illustration at the Library of Congress. Now, at age 72, she has no intention of slowing down.
“I just love drawing people,” she said.