Putin purposely coughed. Trump said he’d act tough for cameras, White House book reveals


  • Stephanie Grisham, former White House press secretary and Melania Trump aide, has as dishy new book.
  • Among the anecdotes, she shares details on a 2019 meeting between Trump and Putin.

Former President Donald Trump told Russian President Vladimir Putin during a 2019 meeting he’d only act tough towards him “for the cameras” and meanwhile Putin seemingly tried to set off Trump’s germaphobia by purposely coughing, according to a new behind-the-scenes book of Trump’s White House

Former White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham’s book, “I’ll Take Your Questions Now,” obtained ahead of publication by The Washington Post, reveals a much more nuanced relationship between Trump and Putin than previous reports portrayed. 

According to Grisham, Putin used tricks to try to trigger and intimidate Trump at their meeting at the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan. Trump, on the other hand, was far less stern off-camera than he presented to the American public and media. 

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Grisham said she saw Trump lean in to tell Putin at the summit: “OK, I’m going to act a little tougher with you for a few minutes. But it’s for the cameras, and after they leave, we’ll talk. You understand.” The discussion at hand was regarding sanctions against Russia for interfering in the 2016 election and for various human rights abuses. 

Throughout the same meeting, which was closed to journalists, Putin coughed and cleared his throat endlessly. Trump’s top Russia advisor Fiona Hill then told Grisham that Putin appeared to be attempting to set off Trump’s known germaphobia.

Earlier this summer, Trump said of his relationship with Putin: “I got along great with President Putin. I liked him. He liked me.”

Putin has seemingly attempted intimidating tactics with world leaders in the past, having brought his large dog into a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in 2007. Merkel has a known fear of dogs after being attacked by one in 1995. 

Grisham was one the longest-serving Trump advisers, working as the president’s third press secretary, first lady Melania Trump’s chief of staff and then communications director before resigning on Jan. 6 during the Capitol riot.

Liz Harrington, a spokeswoman for Trump, told The New York Times Grisham’s book is “another pitiful attempt to cash in on the president’s strength and sell lies about the Trump family. The little substance her book has – if you can make it through juvenile gossip – flies in the face of reality and deserves no serious recognition.”