How Donald Trump’s Body Language Gives Away His Secrets
The tweets of President Donald Trump can be indecipherable, peppered with questionable words like “bigly” and “covfefe.” When we can actually see the president as he speaks, however, we have the advantage of reading his body language — which usually speaks volumes.
Here we’ll look at what Trump’s body language revealed during possibly his angriest moment ever: when the FBI raided his lawyer’s offices. We’ll also highlight his mannerisms in interactions with Hillary Clinton (page 3) and Barack Obama (page 4). Finally, see what his body language revealed in a rare, tender display with his wife, Melania Trump (page 6).
1. The FBI raid that overshadowed a Syria meeting
On April 9, 2018, the FBI raided the offices of Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, and the president came close to losing it, based on his mannerisms. Agents seized documents and the lawyer’s cellphone reportedly related to the $130,000 payment he made to Stormy Daniels after she spoke of an affair with Trump.
That day, Trump slammed the raid in front of reporters before he met with military officials to discuss Syria. “It’s an attack on our country, in a true sense,” Trump said. He was unsuccessfully trying to contain himself, said psychologist Lillian Glass. “We have never seen him like this — posture hunched, holding onto himself … It shows he’s devastated and angry.”
Next: How he treated a foreign leader
2. Press conference with Angela Merkel
Trump hosted German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House in March 2017. Maybe their meetings didn’t go as he expected, as his body language suggested in their press conference afterward. While historically Trump has opted for a lengthy handshake after meeting world leaders, he refused to shake Merkel’s hand.
After several awkward moments, Merkel asked, “Do you want to have a handshake?” Rather than responding, Trump clapped his hands together and looked downward as photographers snapped away. Twitter reacted in full force: “He doesn’t like people who are smarter than he is, most of all women,” one person commented.
Next: A moment in the debate that had people tweeting
3. Debate with Hillary Clinton
In an October 2016 presidential debate, Trump received immediate criticism when he stood directly behind Hillary Clinton while she answered a question about healthcare. Was it an act of intimidation? “He was literally breathing down my neck. My skin crawled,” Clinton wrote in her book, What Happened.
While Clinton ignored his looming, in her book she wonders if she should have confronted him. “Maybe I have overlearned the lesson of staying calm, biting my tongue, digging my fingernails into a clenched fist, smiling all the while, determined to present a composed face to the world.” she wrote.
Next: Trump’s meeting with outgoing President Obama
4. Meeting with Barack Obama
After Trump was elected in November 2016, he and Barack Obama made a show of civility when they met at the White House. Trump leaned forward (a suggestion of dominance) and displayed his now-trademark gesture: the hand steeple. It symbolizes feelings of confidence, superiority, or authority.
Trump’s tight-lipped expression suggested he was withholding strong words and emotions, observers said. While Obama put on a brave face for reporters and shook Trump’s hand, his posture and lack of eye contact with Trump seemed to portray emotional defeat.
Next: A cold gesture between spouses
5. He shook Melania’s hand
After Melania Trump introduced her husband at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland in September 2017, he shook her hand. This seemed strange to many observers, when a kiss on the cheek would have been more traditional and expected. He then gave her a push on the back to usher her offstage.
Next: A more tender moment
6. He saved Melania from a fall
The first couple displayed a rarer, tender moment when the president saved Melania from a fall while they walked across the White House grass to board Air Force One. The first lady, in a navy coat and tan boots with roughly three-inch heels, lost her footing. He caught her before she fell, however, and the two then continued walking to the plane in each other’s arms.
Next: State of the Union body language
7. State of the Union speech
During Trump’s 80-minute State of the Union address in January 2018, when speaking about tax reform, he faced the left — where his supporters were sitting — and reached out both arms in that direction. Conversely, he faced the right — where the Democrats were sitting — when he addressed wage stagnation.
Trump also spent a lot of the speech clapping in response to his own statements about religious liberties, the American flag, and deregulation. This may have been his way of reinforcing his own behavior or a prompting for others to continue their own applause.
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