Earlier today President Trump and Romanian President Klaus Iohannis held a joint press conference in the Rose Garden. Of course, the focus of the American press was the President's reaction to James Comey's testimony yesterday.
What follows is a portion of the dialog along with a partial nonverbal analysis.
JONATHAN KARL (beginning at 22:03): ... Mr. President, um, I want to get back to James Comey's testimony. You suggested he didn't tell the truth in everything he said. Ah, he did say, under oath, that you told him to let the Flynn, ah, you, you said, you hoped the Flynn investigation - you could let - he could let go of it
DONALD TRUMP (over-talking): I didn't say that.
KARL: So he lied about that?
TRUMP: Well - I didn't say that. I mean, I will tell you, I didn't say that.
KARL: And, and did he ask you to pledge his loyalty?
TRUMP (over-talking): And there'd be nothing wrong if I did say it according to everybody that I've read today, but I did not say that.
KARL: And, and did he ask for a pledge of loyalty from you? That's another thing he said -
TRUMP: No he did not.
KARL: So he said those things under oath - would you be willing to, speak under oath to, ah, give your version of, of those events?
TRUMP (over-talking): One hundred percent.
KARL: And -
TRUMP (over-talking): I didn't say, "Under oath". I hardly know the man, I'm not going to say, "I want you to pledge allegiance". Who would do that? Who would ask a man to pledge allegiance under oath? I mean, think of it. I hardly know the man. It doesn't make sense. No, I didn't say that and I didn't say the other.
KARL: So if Robert Mueller wanted to speak with you about that, you'd be willing to talk to him?
TRUMP (over-talking): I'd be glad to tell him exactly what I just told you Jim.
This particular exchange was a bit bizarre for its dialog alone - for both men misspoke and President Trump misunderstood or worse. Note that when Johnathan Karl asked, "and did he ask you to pledge his loyalty?" - What he had meant to say was, "Did you ask him (Comey) to pledge his loyalty to you (Trump)? Trump did not catch this crucial error, and Trump simply answered, "No he did not".
Moreover, when Mr. Karl was recounting on the specifics of Mr. Comey's testimony under oath (yesterday to the Senate), President Trump had misunderstood that Mr. Karl was asking about him (Trump) about asking Comey to take an oath of loyalty. This error seems to be than a simple misunderstanding.
There's a specific nonverbal display of the President's which warrants highlighting here - and it's a beta display.
Beginning at 22:44 and continuing until 22:56, as he said, "... hardly know the man, I'm not going to say, "I want you to pledge allegiance". Who would do that? Who would ask a man to pledge allegiance under oath? I mean, think of it. I hardly know the man. It doesn't make sense ...", Donald Trump held his upper arms very close to his torso, while rapidly moving each of his forearms and hand back and forth, side to side. This is a significantly low confidence display. If he were feeling more confident, Trump would have held his upper arms further out, such that his elbows were 4 - 6 inches (sometimes more) from his torso and also, crucially, he would have slowed down the motion of his arm and hand gestures.
Generally speaking, during alpha behavior displays, the limbs are positioned further away from the body. Conversely, with beta behavior, the limbs are drawn in, giving the body greater protection. And while gesturing too slowly is certainly to be cautioned against, moving too quickly signals anxiety.
Trump's quick and tight arm movement betray his anxiety and low emotional comfort and was also an example of nonverbal leakage - true feelings leaking out through a facade.
Alpha personalities, even though they try to maintain their dominance displays, are only human. They're not always successful at maintaining their personas - and will often slip into moments of beta behavior. The observant among us will catch these nuances and thus discover their opponent's Achilles Heel - giving themselves great advantages.
Despite his words, Donald Trump has a low confidence level regarding the "loyalty exchange" he had with James Comey.
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