At a NATO breakfast meeting on Wednesday, John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, was caught on camera apparently grimacing as President Donald Trump lambasted ally Germany as being a “captive” of Russia.
The White House insisted, however, that Kelly hadn’t been cheesed off at the president — but rather, at the actual cheese.
″[Kelly] was displeased because he was expecting a full breakfast and there were only pastries and cheese,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told The Washington Post.
Video of Wednesday’s meeting, obtained by ABC News, showed Kelly appearing visibly uncomfortable as Trump ranted to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg about a gas pipeline deal between Germany and Russia.
“It’s very sad when Germany makes a massive oil and gas deal with Russia where we’re supposed to be guarding against Russia and Germany goes out and pays billions and billions of dollars a year to Russia,” Trump told Stoltenberg.
“If you look at it, Germany is a captive of Russia, because they supply ― they got rid of their coal plants, got rid of their nuclear, they’re getting so much of the oil and gas from Russia,” the president continued. “I think it’s something NATO has to look at.”
Kelly looked away from Trump as he spoke, squirming in his seat and pursing his lips. U.S. ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison also appeared uneasy during Trump’s tirade, averting her gaze from the president as well as her NATO colleagues sitting across the table.
Body language experts told the Post that Kelly was clearly “displeased” in the moments captured in the video.
“He’s expressing with his lower face that he’s displeased, maybe irritated,” said Patrick Stewart, an associate professor of political science at the University of Arkansas who’s trained in facial expression reading.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel pushed back against Trump’s comments on Wednesday, saying her country makes “independent policies and …independent decisions.”
“Germany does a lot for NATO,” she added, reported The Guardian. “Germany is the second largest provider of troops, the largest part of our military capacity is offered to NATO and until today we have a strong engagement towards Afghanistan. In that, we also defend the interests of the United States.”
Trump later softened his tone on Germany, saying during a press conference with Merkel that the U.S. has a “tremendous relationship” with its European ally.