HE likely regards Twitter as an instrument of his presidency, but it seems Donald Trump has another device at his disposal - and it is literally up his sleeve. In the wake of his refusal to shake Nancy Pelosi’s hand, even a quick scan of his time in the White House reveals he views handshakes as power tools.

Up his sleeve?

Almost. Body language experts note that the president - who is riding high after being acquitted in his impeachment trial - uses his handshake as an emotional weapon.


At the State of the Union this week, he ignored the offer of a handshake from House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, who led the impeachment proceedings. She offered Trump her hand, but he turned away.

It’s a power thing?

He seems to use the handshake - or lack of one - as a thumb war and there is a growing list of people with whom he has either had awkward shakes, or refused to take their hands at all.

Such as?

When German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited the White House in March 2017, he seemed to refuse her suggestion that they ought to shake hands - in a moment that was cringingly awkward.

When he does shake hands?

Body language expert Chris Ulrich says President Trump is a “master” of endeavouring to show dominance, saying, "President Trump has this technique where he’ll grab you and he’ll pull you in.”

He’s used it on world leaders?

When Trump met Russia’s Vladimir Putin in 2018 in Helsinki, Putin clearly new the "pull in" was on its way and grabbed the chair he was sitting in, evidently reluctant to be the one being pulled.

Not all world leaders are so reluctant?

It seems France’s Emmanuel Macron plays Trump at his own game. The pair have had a few “white knuckle” shakes, with a memorable one being in the summer of 2018 during Trump's Bastille Day visit to Paris, where Macron kept holding on so long that he left finger marks on the US president.

Holding hands?

Theresa May and Trump were frequently seen holding hands while she was the Prime Minister. She later said she took his hand to help him up and down stairs.

He’s not the only one to use a “shakedown”?

Trump has a surprising stable-mate in the form of Hugh Grant. Last year, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sajid Javid, accused the actor of being “incredibly rude” for refusing to shake his hand at a film premiere. Grant, who was a victim of the phone-hacking scandal, later said that he felt Javid had previously been “borderline contemptuous” to victims of press abuse.

It’s all about the upper-hand?

The handshake itself dates back to the 5th century BC in Greece where it was a symbol of peace, showing that neither person was carrying a weapon.

And Mr Ulrich says simply of modern times: “These guys are always using hand shakes as a power dynamic to dominate.”