Friday, July 7, 2023

Body Language Analysis №4706: Did Donald Trump Pressure Mike Pence to Pressure Doug Ducey to Overturn Arizona's 2020 Election results?  — Nonverbal and Emotional Intelligence


Please take the time to watch this video on a large screen — also, consider occasionally viewing with the 1/2 speed or 1/4 speed settings, as many of these behaviors are dynamic and thus impossible to be seen with still images.

Mike Pence was interviewed on “Face the Nation” on Sunday 2 July 2023 (link above). What follows is a Body Language, Statement Analysis, and Paralanguage Analysis of a crucial portion of that interview (beginning at 9:52).

*Each analysis appears below its corresponding image*


As Margaret Brennan begins her question (9:52), “There was some reporting in The Washington Post …”, Pence displays an Inward Lip Roll (9:55) — an indication he’s suppressing Strong Thought-Emotions. He’s also displaying a Jaw Jut (signaling a strong adrenaline surge).


At 9:57 Mike Pence displays a hard swallow. We can see his Thyroid Cartilage (“Adam’s Apple”) rise and fall associated with anxiety and an accompanying temporary dry throat. It’s notable that he’s also closing his eyes (Psychological distancing).


During 10:02–10:03, Pence nods up-and-down (affirmative) just after and while Margaret Brennan says, “…President Trump, back in 2020, after the election, repeatedly asked you to call the governor…” 


During 10:07–10:08, Pence again nods up-and-down as Ms. Brennan continues “… to get you to substantiate President Trump’s claims…”

Pence simultaneously displays varying levels of Contempt during 10:08–10:16 as Ms. Brennan says, “President Trump’s claims, false claims of Fraud…” This is expressed both with his left mouth corner.

…and w/ increased levels of Contempt superimposed w/ the corner of his right mouth (this particular right-side Contempt display is a microexpression/near-microexpression as it lasts for a fraction of a second [10:12]), again, w/ eyelid closure (psychological blocking).

Pence displays a Feigned Pout (arrogance, condescension) at 10:16 as he also nods his head up-and-down in the affirmative (10:16–10:18).


During 10:21, Pence displays yet another Contempt display (near-microexpression). 



At 10:23 Pence displays another Feigned Pout together with Feigned Contemplation (this amalgam is very much a Feigned-WTF expression). Note that Pence did not answer Ms. Brennan’s answer quickly.

Pay close attention to Pence’s word-choice (the Statement Analysis of his answer): “Well I, I think the record reflects that I, I did check in.”

• “Well”, a stalling word (needs more time to formulate answer)
• “I, I” stuttering twice (in a non-stutterer) reflects considerable anxiety. Stuttering this specific word (in a non-stutterer) is correlative with deception.
• “I think”, this is not definitive language, a person telling the truth would not say, “I think”
• “the record reflects”, Whose record? Was the phone call recorded? Your word? Trump’s word? Ducey’s word? This is classic hedging language.

Note the level of facial asymmetry here (10:26). It’s rather extreme.

Pence’s Unilateral eyebrow and forehead raising indicates his own skepticism/disbelief of his own statement.

Speaking out of one side of the mouth (provided it’s not a life-long chronic behavior, à la Rex Tillerson [or due to a stroke, injury, or other medical condition]) is a signal of Bravado, Braggadocio — and/or Deception.

Pence’s simultaneous bilateral eyelid closure synchronous with his forehead and mouth behavior indicates the psychological blocking behavior and is an example of diminished eye contact associated with lying.

*Pence repeated this nonverbal cluster pattern multiple times during this interview*

Note Pence’s language of “I did check in — ah, with ah, not only Governor Ducey, but other governors in states that were going through the process of reviewing their election results.”

• “I did check in” (plausible deniability) 
• “Not only with Governor Ducey but other governors…” (What other governors? Why?)

This is akin to diffusion of responsibility — making it seem like it’s somehow normal to call all the governors where the election results are close — to what purpose?

Pence also rocks back/squirms in his chair (indicating pelvic floor, gluteal, rectal, and scrotal muscles contracting secondary to fear-anxiety), (during 10:25–10:27) ….

….as he also, with high probability (as inferred by the motion of his upper arms) rubs the anterior (front) aspect of his thighs with his palms (high anxiety), (10:25–10:27).


Pence shrugs both his shoulders at 10:30 together with eyelid closure and that highly suspect asymmetrical mouth and forehead amalgam.

*Pay close attention to the tremendous frequency of Pence shrugging his shoulders during this video*

A person who shrugs their shoulders in the context of being accused of a lie, malfeasance, or being associated with others being similarly accused — is either trying (too much) to distance themselves from those accusations or he’s outright lying.

Said another way, an honest person who conducts himself forthrightly, will not shrug their shoulders with the frequency prominently displayed here by Mike Pence.


Note Pence’s rapid side-to-side head shake as he says, “reviewing their election results. But there was no pressure involved, Margaret” (10:33–10:34), (again, contradictory behavior).


During 10:36, Pence displays another shoulder shrug simultaneous with his partially suppressed, smug smile/laughter.

A person who’s lying (particularly a person in power) will often laugh when being confronted with an accusation. They pretend (act, insinuate, and sometimes even state outright, etc.) that the reason for their laughter is that the accusation is preposterous …

…but the real reason for their laughter is that very often, when a person is caught lying, they will smile. Such a “this is silly”, “preposterous” laughter [feign] gives them plausible deniability to cover for their being-caught-in-a-lie laughter.

It’s helpful to think of this behavior as a form of burying/camouflaging the smile amidst a sea of white noise [laughter].


Note how Pence is leaning to his right (10:39) as he says, “I was, I was calling to get an update” then he tilts his head/neck left saying, “I passed along that information to the President” (blinking more rapidly) — then leans right again.

Pence is listing starboard (away from Trump). It’s also notable that Pence’s rate of blinking (anxiety) increased significantly when he symbolically leaned to Trump here.

When interpreted in isolation, Rapid blinking is a reliable indicator of anxiety, but not for deception specifically (In this analysis, however, we’re not viewing this or any behavior in isolation).

Said another way, a person who is lying may very well be blinking rapidly (dishonest anxiety), but a person who is blinking rapidly is not necessarily lying (indeed, they can have many reasons for anxiety in an honest context).

It’s also important to note that all people who are telling lies are not necessarily blinking above their normal baseline.

Having made these crucial nonverbal points regarding blinking, as we’ve seen (and will continue to see) during this interview segment Mike Pence displayed multiple other nonverbal indicators of deception.

So although there are exceptions, we should, in general, avoid making conclusions based on a single body language behavior, viewed in isolation.


During 10:44, as Pence says, “I think, ah” we see/hear more smug laughter. This is yet another example of Pence camouflaging the real reason for his smile of being caught in a lie — with smug, melodramatic, SNL-esque, ‘how preposterous!’ laughter.

Note Pence’s high-frequency of stuttering (he’s a non-stutterer) (10:42) as he says, “and ah, as I said, I, I think, ah, the ah, I think the ah, ah, ah the record, ah, from that time …” (high-anxiety)

Pence’s language choice of, “I think” (wiggle room/deceptive language) rather than a definitive “This is what happened”, “I know”, “I know this is what happened because — I was there/I was making the call/I was the one talking to the President/to Governor Ducey”.

…and Pence’s “what The record reflects” is very often just someone’s account (lie) — and it may very well be incongruent with what truly occurred.

Politicians and pundits often use the extremely cliché/tactic of beginning their answer with “Look,…” (10:50–10:51).

This “Look” usage is a self-righteous juke. It’s dismissive and a tactic for not answering directly — metaphorically grabbing the microphone away from the interviewer so you don’t have to answer (making them a good bit less likely to push back with a similar inquiry).


Note Pence’s display (10:53) of a Rationalization Rapport Empathy Expression (R2E2) as he says, “these states were going through a process”.

The R2E2 is an expression we all make from time-to-time. However those people who display this too often or at crucial times are trying too hard to convince you of something.

A warning light should go on when you see a R2E2.

The R2E2 is not an indication of their Empathy, rather people who make this expression are trying to capitalize on our Empathy. Very often, people displaying the R2E2 are trying to Rationalize or get us to Co-Rationalize with their opinions, ideas, plans, etc.

A person who’s making the R2E2 is trying to gain rapport and your trust (This is particularly true when we see it frequently or at crucial times — such as when they’re agitated, accused, in the spotlight, etc.)

When we see an R2E2 expression *frequently or at crucial times*, we alway should ask ourselves a series of following questions:

R2E2 checklist:

• Why are they putting an extra effort in trying to convince me of an idea, course of action, etc.?
• What’s my overall feeling of their level of sincerity in this moment?
• What is my gut-feeling regarding this person’s sincerity in what they’re saying at this moment?
• Of what, specifically, are they trying to convince me?
• What, specifically, do I feel is their predominant emotion at this moment?
• What are my gut feelings regarding this person’s motive(s) in this moment?
• Are they feigning an “Achilles Heel” and if so, what is it?
• Are they falsely sharing one of their ‘weaknesses’ with me?

Pence’s statement, “Look, these states were going through a process, after, after so much uncertainty about, ah, the election outcome” — is Pence going along, at least in part, with The Big Lie — No, there wasn’t uncertainty in the 2020 election outcome.

Pence is covering his arse for his multiple (and for what, even on the surface) are blatantly unorthodox calls.

Notice too that Pence conflates the outcome of the Election in Arizona with that of Georgia (and we know Trump will be indicted next month for his 2020 election tampering in Georgia). This is both a rationalization — and a Freudian Slip.

Pence’s equating the Arizona situation with Georgia is Pence saying that Trump also believed this to be true — and thus Trump’s (illegal) actions in Georgia were similar, equal to, or perhaps worse to what he did regarding Arizona.

At 11:01, we see Pence display yet another unilateral eyebrow asymmetry with a shoulder shrug. Neither nonverbal displays are seen with this frequency if a person was telling the truth (and highly suspicious associated with this specific statement).


Pence displays another R2E2 expression at 11:06 R2E2. 


Pence hard swallows (anxiety) again whilst also closing his eyes at 11:19 upon hearing the question, “but were you being pressured by Mr. Trump?” *Red lights flashing, Sirens blaring*. 


This Hard Swallow-Eyelid closure is followed immediately (11:20) by a Clenching Jaw (indicating an adrenaline surge) which amplifies the Richter scale of Pence’s anxiety tell.

Pence’s stuttering response of, “Ah, No, ah, ah, ah, I d-, I don’t remember any pressure” — upon receiving this question is extremely telling.

Moreover, Pence’s answer of, “I don’t remember”, in this context is profound — highly consistent with Deception.


Note Pence’s looks away (diminished eye contact) whilst squirming in his chair at 11:28–11:34. This is indicative of pelvic floor, gluteal, rectal, and scrotal muscles contraction — secondary to fear-anxiety)

Pence is also, most probably, rubbing tops of thighs here (anxiety and fear), although this action can’t be directly visualized (11:30–11:34). Please watch the video as most of these behaviors need to be interpreted in the dynamic context of human movement.


Pence shakes his head side-to-side (11:37), (“no”) as he says, “I’ve spoken about it very openly”. When verbal language contradicts body language, it’s the body language that’s always telling the truth. Pence is lying/he’s withholding important details (a Lie of Omission).


During 11:38–11:39, Pence displays yet another bilateral shoulder shrug.

When confronted with a possible lie or being accused of/associated with an unethical/illegal act, a person telling the truth will NOT shrug their shoulders with the frequency Pence does during this interview.


During 11:42, as Pence says, “strong” (“ah, ah a strong difference ah, ah, I’ll …”) he displays another R2E2 expression (please see above, number 48 of 91–57 of 91). We also hear yet another of Pence’s display of stuttering in a non-stutterer (anxiety, deception).

Note also, Pence’s evoking God (“by God’s grace …” at 11:45–11:46). When confronted in a possible lie, evoking a deity’s/religious figures name is correlated with deception.


Moreover, when Pence says “God’s grace” he displays another bilateral shoulder shrug! (11:45–11:46) and eyelid closure. These simultaneous behaviors are inconsistent with any possible belief of Pence’s that “God’s grace” had anything to do with it. 


Immediately after that (11:46–11:47), as he says, “I did my duty under the Constitution…”, Pence rapidly shakes his head side-to-side. Once again his verbal language contradicts his body language. 


During 11:50–11:51, Pence displays a microexpression of fear as he says “joint” (“…presiding over a joint session of congress…”).


During 11:56–11:57 and shortly thereafter during 11:58 and again at 12:02, Pence displays multiple back-to-back R2E2 expressions with Shoulder Shrugs.

More head shaking side-to-side (while also closing his eyes, psychological blocking) during 12:05–12:06 as Pence says, “states were engaging in appropriate reviews”. Another example of body language vs. verbal language contradiction.


Pence displays yet another contempt display during 12:08–12:10.

At 12:10, Ms. Brennan asks, “You were not being pressured to influence state governors — is what you are saying?” Pence’s response was screaming guilt as he answers …

At 12:17, after a *Long Pause*, Pence answers, “Ahhh, N, N, N, No — No, there was, th- the-, [deep inhalation] the- there was ust [sic] — the President expressed ah his, his strong belief, ah that I had authority that I did not have under the Constution [sic]…”

This passage is remarkable not only for the frequency and variety of stuttering (in a non-stutterer) — but also for Pence’s slurring of his words “ust” and “Constution” — more strong signals of anxiety and, in this context, highly correlative with deception.

On occasion, we all mispronounce words — however, when those who mispronounce words are also lying — it’s done with an increased frequency — AND, crucially, they tend not correct themselves by re-pronouncing/re-stating the word(s).


Superimposed upon his verbal answer, was Pence’s nonverbal response: chair-squirming/buttocks raising, deeply inhaling, along with his suppressed smile (duping delight) in this context, *screams deception*.

And did you see that conspicuous rapid switch from the side-to-side head shaking (12:18) to the up-and-down head nodding (12:19) just prior to his deep inhalation and chair squirming/buttock raising?


Throughout much of this video, Pence displays what for him is an extremely common expression — an Elevated Central Forehead Contraction together with a Partial Mouth Smile.

Everyone makes this expression occasionally (hopefully not too often) during moments of:

• Arrogance
• Contempt
• Smug Disbelief

(Note all three of these thought-emotions have other possible expression displays)

But those who make this expression often (as does Pence) or in particular contexts, there exists an extremely high association with Sociopathy and Psychopathy (Antisocial Personality Disorder).

SUMMARY: Mike Pence’s body language, verbal language, and paralanguage displayed during this video segment indicates that he lied on multiple occasions.

Vice President Mike Pence called Arizona Governor Ducey in order to pressure him to overturn Arizona’s results of the 2020 Presidential Election — and he did so under instructions by Donald Trump.


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This post and others accompanying it, serve as a reference source for the art and science of Body Language/Nonverbal Communication. The views and opinions expressed on this website are those of the author. In an effort to be both practical and academic, many examples from/of varied cultures, politicians, professional athletes, legal cases, public figures, etc., are cited in order to teach and illustrate both the interpretation of others’ body language as well as the projection of one’s own nonverbal skills in many different contexts.