The Physical Toll the Trial Took on Trump

Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Getty
Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Getty

It’s unclear what effect Donald Trump’s conviction will have on his run for president, but it has already taken a toll on his physical appearance.

The former president looks noticeably more tired and less confident after his grueling weeks-long criminal trial, experts told The Daily Beast.

Donald Trump

Donald Trump walks to speak to the media following his hush money trial conviction at Manhattan Criminal Court on May 30, 2024, in New York City.

Seth Wenig-Pool/Getty

“He looks visibly exhausted from it,” said Michele Green, a cosmetic dermatologist in New York. “His under-eye area looks darker and it looks more puffy, overall his skin color and tone are more sallow. It looks like he hasn’t slept.”

The trial forced the famously restless former president to stay seated in a cold Manhattan courtroom almost every day for seven weeks, awaiting what was ultimately a unanimous verdict of “guilty” on 34 counts of falsifying documents.

Donald Trump

Donald Trump raises a fist after his inauguration on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 20, 2017, in Washington, DC.

Alex Wong/Getty

It was enough to make anyone lose some beauty sleep, but Green suggested the stress may have originated from somewhere else.

“He had this gag order where he wasn’t allowed to speak—I wonder if the stress of that has affected him,” she mused. “He looks worn out, and I wonder how much is that component.”

Donald Trump

Donald Trump stands on the Truman Balcony of the White House on Oct. 5, 2020, in Washington, DC.

Win McNamee/Getty

Trump hosted a press conference Friday morning to respond to the verdict, and body language expert Patti Wood said she saw less of his customary bravado. She noted that he began speaking before even reaching the podium—a marked departure from his usual dramatic pause that could indicate high levels of anxiety.

“His typical way of starting a speech is to go to the podium and pause and just wait,” Wood said. “He typically savors that moment when people are waiting for him and he’s making them wait.”

The lack of pause, she added, is “an indication of anxiety and a desire to get through it, to get over it, to get it done.”

Even before the verdict came down, Trump showed fewer signs of his usual brash confidence. In a video from the courthouse posted to Instagram by his son, Donald Trump Jr, the former president sat with his fingers on the table and wrists down, a pose Wood calls “piano playing position.”

Donald Trump

Donald Trump arrives at the "Stop The Steal" Rally on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, DC.

Tasos Katopodis/Getty

“There’s tension forcing the wrists downward, the emotional message… is, ‘I don't know what to do,’” she said. “He’s getting self comfort by touching the tips of his fingers on the table in front of him—symbolically, he doesn't know how to play this.”

S. Jay Olshansky, an aging researcher at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said it’s difficult to say how all of this stress will affect Trump’s overall health.

“We do know that when we last evaluated him he definitely had cardiovascular disease,” Olshansky said, referring to an analysis of Trump’s health records he and seven other researchers performed in 2020. “You introduce a high stress situation to someone who has cardiovascular disease, [that’s] probably not a good idea.”

Donald Trump

But presidents and presidential candidates, he added, tend to handle stress differently than the general population. Presidents actually tend to live longer than the average man of their generation, according to a report Olshansky authored in 2011.

Americans have not received an updated medical report on Trump since his last White House physical in 2020, the researcher said, making it hard to draw any inferences about his health.

Ultimately, he said, the changes to Trump’s appearance may come down to just a few nights’ lost sleep.

“If I lose one night’s sleep I look horrible,” he said. “If you’re facing multiple loss of nights’ sleep, I can’t imagine what that does to someone.”

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