Is there anyone with more expressive mannerisms than President Trump? Honestly, while giving his State of the Union on Feb. 5, Trump's body language said more than his mouth ever could as he discussed topics like criminal justice reform, immigration, and bipartisanship. But in the same breath, Donald Trump's body language at the 2019 State of the Union also suggested that he might not have been as open as you thought.
Of course, you probably expected that Trump would use the floor to address everything that's been going on in politics as of late, from the back-and-forth over his long-promised border wall with Mexico to his dear friend Roger Stone getting nabbed by FBI Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. (Stone has pleaded not guilty and says he plans to be fully "vindicated." Via White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, Trump says the charges have "nothing to do" with him.) And he did, to an extent, but he appeared to be holding something back, according to some experts.
Traci Brown, a body language expert and author of How to Detect Lies, Fraud and Identity Theft: Field Guide, notes that during his address, Trump often stood with his chest out and grabbed the podium "like he owns it," which shows that he felt confident. But she also points out what she called a Cheshire Cat grin on his face at points, which raises concerns. "A smile like that says he may be hiding something and doesn't want to be fully expressive," Brown says in an email to Elite Daily.
Patti Wood, another body language expert and the author of SNAP: Making The Most Of First Impressions, Body Language, And Charisma, also picked up on Trump's confidence, noting that it kind of got overbearing at times.
In an email to Elite Daily, she points out the way Trump would lift his chin up high while sharing the stories of his guests, particularly Holocaust survivor Joshua Kaufman and World War II veteran Irving Locker, who "helped liberate a Holocaust concentration camp," saying it appeared that Trump was only taking the applause for himself. "This is an odd [pride] when the honor should go to the person he is introducing. I advise anyone introducing someone to give the audience to them once they have been introduced," Wood explains. "You don't claim someone's honor as your own."
The awkwardness doesn't stop there. Some people around Trump appeared to be really tense, particularly House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has railed against Trump over his demand of $5.7 billion for his border wall. For example, when the two shook hands, she looked like she didn't want to engage, Brown says. "Notice how it's not a full grip shake. She's stopping short," she points out.
Not to mention, Pelosi's feelings appeared to be plastered all over her face. "That look on her face is the most polite 'I don't like you but I'm doing this because I have to' look I've ever seen," Brown continues. "Here she's got a very tight smile with her lips only. Real smiles happen with our eyes."
It's unclear what exactly had these two on their toes, but something tells me it may have something to do with the border wall that Trump has continued to demand. It was the sticking point that caused the longest government shutdown ever from December 2018 to nearly the end of January 2019, and if Congress and the president don't come to an agreement about whether or how to fund it by Feb. 15, another government shutdown will go into effect. Trump may also declare a national emergency, which would allow him to appropriate the funds from elsewhere. Trump has been pretty tight-lipped about the option, given that pulling such a move will surely meet widespread backlash and legal challenges, so maybe that's what he could've been holding back, if anything at all. The White House did not respond to Elite Daily's previous requests for comment on the subject.
If only he was capable of maintaining cool postures like we've seen from people closest to him, like, say, first lady Melania Trump. During the 2018 State of the Union, for example, she kept a controlled posture, staying aware and in control of her body and expressions throughout the evening. But some wondered if she was a little too stoic. "She's so into herself, and her presentation of self, that she lacks authenticity, genuineness. She almost appears to be untouchable," body language expert Susan Constantine told Elite Daily at the time.
To summarize, it looked as if Melania wasn't unhappy about being there, but she wasn't necessarily jumping for joy either. Who could blame her, though?
During the event, Trump delivered a healthy dose of touting his accomplishments, from raving about job growth for African Americans (although it started under President Obama, ouch) and tax cut reform. He also emphasized inclusivity and bipartisanship, but then he'd backtrack and go completely off the rails, while Democrats, Republicans and people facing deportation, namely recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program — which allows those who arrived in the United States as children to work and go to school, and protects them from deportation — sat in the audience.
"We have proposed new legislation that will fix our immigration laws and support our ICE and Border Patrol agents," Trump said at one point, per Politico. "These are great people, these are great, great people who work so hard in the midst of such danger."
There were also some misstatements and exaggerated comments made. With that, how can you not just sit there and try to hold it all together like this:
Maybe he'll keep things cool during the 2020 SOTU. We'll see.