Putin coughed and cleared his throat throughout a 2019 meeting with Trump, apparently trying to trigger his germaphobia, book says

vladimir putin donald trump

Russian President Vladimir Putin meeting then-US President Donald Trump in Osaka, Japan, in 2019. Kremlin Press Office / Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

  • Putin coughed nonstop at a 2019 meeting with Trump, Stephanie Grisham wrote in her new book.

  • Fiona Hill, Trump’s top Russia advisor, said Putin was trying to set Trump off, Grisham said.

  • Trump is a well known germaphobe and Putin is often accused of playing on world leaders’ insecurities.

  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared to deliberately try to set off President Donald Trump’s germaphobia during their June 2019 meeting, according to a new book.

In her tell-all book “I’ll Take Your Questions Now,” obtained ahead of publication by The Washington Post, former White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said that Putin used tricks to try and throw Trump off his game at their meeting at the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan.

Throughout the meeting, which was closed to journalists, Putin coughed or cleared his throat ceaselessly, prompting Trump’s top Russia advisor Fiona Hill to tell Grisham that Putin seemed to be trying to set off Trump’s germaphobia, Grisham wrote.

It is well known that Trump hates germs and obsesses over hygiene. “If you’re the perpetrator of a cough or of a sneeze or any kind of thing that makes you look sick … you get the scowl,” a former Trump official once told Politico.

Representatives for Trump did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

Putin has also long been accused of playing on the insecurities of world leaders. In 2007, Putin brought his large dog into a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel even though it was well known that Merkel has feared dogs since she was attacked by one in 1995.

Putin tried to unsettle Trump in other ways during the Osaka meeting, Grisham wrote, per The Post.

In one case, Putin brought along an attractive female interpreter, who seemed to be there specifically to distract Trump, Grisham said.

At the same meeting, Grisham wrote, she heard Trump lean over to Putin and say that he was going to act tough “for the cameras” but that “after they leave, we’ll talk. You understand.”

Grisham’s book comprises a long list of grievances against her former boss and insightful anecdotes about her time in the White House. For example:

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