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Finnish president receives praise – and inspires memes – after fiery Trump press conference

Trump rages at reporter for pressing him on Ukraine call
Trump rages at reporter for pressing him on Ukraine call 01:14

President Trump dominated the headlines with a heated press conference on Wednesday, during which he called Congressman Adam Schiff a "lowlife," doubled down on his attacks against the whistleblower, and threatened to sue several people. Caught in the crossfire between Mr. Trump and the reporters at the White House was the visiting Finnish President Sauli Niinistö, who spent much of the event sidelined beside Mr. Trump.

Niinistö, however, emerged from the crucible to win praise for the way he handled it. And because Americans can't resist using social media to express their feelings, Niinistö also got the meme treatment.

"Finnish President doing a Jim from The Office," one person wrote, referring to the mockumentary character's signature stare into the camera — often used to say, without words, "I can't believe what I'm witnessing right now," or "get me out of here."

Niinistö was often seen looking intently away from his talkative counterpart. At one point, as they sat side by side in the Oval Office, he appeared to swat Mr. Trump's hand away when the president slapped his knee. 

"The Finnish President telling Trump that he doesn't want to be touched is amazing and incredibly uncomfortable," one person tweeted, sharing a gif of the moment.

Twitter ignited with jokes about the uncomfortable-looking Finn and many felt, although he's a president, Niinistö was quite relatable. "He is ALL OF US," one person tweeted. 

The Democratic governor of California, Gavin Newsom, agreed. "Today, we are all Sauli Niinistö," he tweeted. Newsom added that he "mainly just [feels] bad for the poor President of Finland who had to endure that."

President Trump did try to redirect attention to Niinistö when Reuters reporter Jeff Mason pressed him for an answer about his phone call with the Ukrainian president. "We have the president of Finland. Ask him a question," Mr. Trump retorted. "Ask this gentleman a question. Don't be rude."

Even former CIA Director John Brennan jumped into the tweet storm surrounding the event — but he wasn't laughing. "Press conference with Finnish President shows @realDonaldTrump is a national disgrace who deserves impeachment, conviction, & ouster from office," Brennan wrote. "Republicans in Congress must abandon him now if they care about our country & have any hope of salvaging a political future for GOP."

Finnish media compared Niinistö's calmness to Mr. Trump demeanor, praising the Finn for not interfering with U.S. domestic politics, according to the Associated Press. The Finnish tabloid Iltalehti referred to U.S. domestic politics as "Trump's nightmare," and another Finnish publication called Mr. Trump "explosive."

Helsingin Sanomat, Finland's largest newspaper, said the two leaders showed "two parallel realities," suggesting Mr. Trump should shout less so reporters can hear better, according to the AP. 

Although he looked uncomfortable — and oh so meme-able — Niinistö diplomatically told Finnish media that the news conference was "very pleasant."

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