Alexander Miridonov/Kommersant/Getty
November 13, 2017 01:34 PM

President Donald Trump had more than a little trouble pulling off a traditional multi-leader handshake at an international conference in the Philippines on Monday.

During the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Manila, attending world leaders were invited on stage for the conference’s customary group handshake, in which the heads of state cross their arms and join hands with their counterparts.

The Associated Press reported that “the announcer’s instructions briefly baffled Trump” — a struggle that was also made abundantly clear in photos and footage of the moment.

After Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte motioned for Trump to step forward, the president made his first mistake, offering the wrong hand to Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc, who was on his right.

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Trump then had a lightbulb moment and strained to correct his positioning, but ended up securing an uncomfortable-looking grip on Duterte and Phúc’s hands.

Trump’s difficulties were laid bare on his face, which at one point twisted into what can only be described as a grimace. (Even The New York Times‘ Mark Lander, who initially described Trump’s facial expression as an enthusiastic smile in a pool report, felt compelled to send out a second report explaining that it was actually “more of an exaggerated grimace.”)

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Trump’s awkward handshakes with world leaders have captured internet attention since he took office. He’s become known for his signature “yank and pull” handshake, which first made headlines after his meeting with Shinzo Abe of Japan in February.


Not long after that, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greeted Trump with a combined shake-and-shoulder-grab in an apparent effort to outmaneuver the president.

But it was Monday’s group handshake that really got the best of Trump. And the internet took note.

Noted one critic on Twitter: “The grownups had no problem smiling and clasping hands.”

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