AP Photo/Seth Wenig, Pool
- Former President Donald Trump “should have smiled” for news cameras on Tuesday.
- Instead, photos from his court appearance projected “low energy,” a crisis management expert told Insider
- “That’s a visual that’s going to live now and forever,” the expert, Max Marcucci said.
Former President Donald Trump “should have smiled” for news cameras on Tuesday when he surrendered for his arrest and appeared for his arraignment in New York City, a crisis management expert told Insider.
Instead, the former president bordered on looking nervous to exhausted in photos from the courthouse that will live on, said Max Marcucci, a senior vice president at the crisis firm Levick. Images that emerged don’t project his “strongman personality” or energy, he said, and you’d expect someone to appear energetic if they are defiant and wanting to state their case.
“He called Jeb Bush ‘low energy,'” said Marcucci, who has advised clients on court appearances. “His photos from his appearance in court were low energy. They did not do what I think they could have done in portraying him as confident and self-assured.”
Trump pleaded “not guilty” on Tuesday upon hearing charges against in him in the 34-count felony indictment for first-degree falsifying business records. The indictment follows a probe into 2016 “hush-money” payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels during his presidential campaign.
Trump waved to the cameras as he left his motorcade but he appeared to scowl as he moved through the Manhattan courthouse to be arraigned and no one held the door for him. Images from the courtroom showed him staring red-eyed and somber-looking into the camera while flanked by attorneys.
“In that moment, he does not appear to be in control,” Marcucci said, noting Trump’s “thousand-yard stare.” “That’s a visual that’s going to live now and forever.”
Trump is expected to speak at Mar-a-Lago Tuesday night, but until then, these visuals will accompany the news for hours. He did not give any statements at the courthouse, as expected.
Before his indictment, The New York Times reported Trump “mused openly” about whether he should smile for news cameras when making a court appearance.
But on Tuesday, while heading to the courthouse, he wrote on Truth Social: “Seems so SURREAL — WOW, they are going to ARREST ME. Can’t believe this is happening in America.”
Marcucci said the gravity of Trump’s situation may be setting in.
“He’s now entered a space where he has increasingly little control over the narrative, the news cycle, and his typical tactics that he’s used and relied on for decades are actually legally risky for him,” he said.
Trump, the showman and 2024 presidential candidate, may be inclined to make a spectacle. But he’s likely also receiving advice from his attorneys to not open himself up to additional scrutiny and “don’t break into jail,” Marcucci said.
Given his performance Tuesday, Marcucci said, Trump’s defense team appears to have their “unweildy client” under control.
“It’s what he does need for the litigation side, but from a public point of view, he’s not projecting the strongman kind of defiance that we’ve come to expect,” he said.