On Friday, Merkel flew to the White House to discuss NATO, trade, and terrorism and to participate in a joint press conference with the president, which he kicked off by defending their friendship. “…We have a really great relationship — we have actually had a great relationship right from the beginning but some people didn’t understand that,” said Trump. “But we understand that and that’s what’s important. Very extraordinary woman.”
However, as the conference unfolded, social media was struck by their vibe, which contrasted with that between Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron. On Monday, the first couple welcomed their French counterparts with a ceremonious display ahead of Friday’s state dinner that included a private helicopter ride, a 21-gun salute, and lots of affectionate ribbing.
According to Susan Constantine, a body-language expert who trains law enforcement and the Department of Defense, public perception of a strained relationship is spot-on. “Take for example, when they shake hands at the podium,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “The president’s palm is facing upward, which is a position of weakness and he looks embarrassed by Merkel’s dominant placement of her hand.”
Both Trump and Merkel’s facial expressions also convey strife: “Merkel looks smug — she knows she has the upper power in this moment — while Trump avoids eye contact and presses his lips together in frustration.”
When they take turns speaking, their tension is no less obvious. “The president seems to be feeling a combination of disappointment, anger, and disgust,” says Constantine. “The corners of his mouth are turned down and he appears deep in thought. Merkel, on the other hand, is flippant and dismissive by looking away from him.”
Throughout the meeting, Trump regains the upper hand. “When the president holds the podium, he’s stretched out as if he’s spreading his wings and his shoulders are wide, two signs of confidence,” she notes, adding that Merkel seems irritated by his posture. “By her pursed lips and puffed cheeks, she’s holding in her words but she’s ready to blow.”
Finally, says Constantine, Trump appears “patronizing” toward Merkel, by patting her hand during a separate handshake while he avoids eye contact. “She appears dubious over the state of their relationship and her heart isn’t in the handshake,” says Constantine. “Her hand is limp in his while he pulls her close.”
According to CNN, the tension between Trump and Merkel stems because the president “repeatedly bashed Merkel on the campaign trail and accused her of ‘ruining Germany,’ citing the nation’s policies allowing refugees into the nation.” Making matters worse, during a March 2017 when reporters asked the two leaders to shake hands, Trump didn’t comply.
“They want to have a handshake,” Merkel nudged Trump, who didn’t respond.
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