Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump
US President Donald Trump and Russia's President Vladimir Putin shake hands during a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany, on July 7, 2017 (AFP).

On Wednesday, Business Insider reported that former White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham's new book alleges Russian President Vladimir Putin deliberately tried to trigger former President Donald Trump's fear of germs by pointedly coughing in a 2019 meeting.

"Throughout the meeting, which was closed to journalists, Putin coughed or cleared his throat ceaselessly, prompting Trump's top Russia advisor Fiona Hill to tell Grisham that Putin seemed to be trying to set off Trump's germaphobia, Grisham wrote," reported Bill Bostock. "It is well known that Trump hates germs and obsesses over hygiene. 'If you're the perpetrator of a cough or of a sneeze or any kind of thing that makes you look sick ... you get the scowl,' a former Trump official once told Politico."

As the report noted, these are standard fare tactics for Putin, who frequently tries to personally intimidate world leaders in meetings. He once brought a dog to a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was attacked by a dog a few decades ago.

Trump was frequently accused by critics of being overly subservient to Putin throughout his White House tenure, after the Russian government took steps to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and Trump's government attempted to obstruct federal investigations into the matter.