What a Yale Psychiatrist Told Political Leaders About Trump’s Mental Health

It’s no secret that 2017 was an incredibly tumultuous time in our history. From Donald Trump’s inauguration to the Harvey Weinstein scandal to ‘The Silence Breakers,’ it was a busy year for the news cycle, our political climate, foreign affairs, and much more.
2018 shows no signs of slowing down with the release of a new “tell-all” book about Trump’s campaign and early presidency, Fire and Fury. We’ve discussed how psychiatrists are concerned the president is on the verge of a mental breakdown, and they have taken to Washington to plead their case. Read on for more information on the coalition, Congress’s response, and what could happen next (page 8).

The background info:

trump scowls at the christmas tree lighting

Yale psychiatrist Bandy X. Lee, M.D. thinks Trump is close to his breaking point. | Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

Lawmakers who expressed concern about Trump’s mental health invited Yale psychiatry professor Bandy X. Lee, M.D., to brief them over a two-day period on Trump’s recent behavior.

Lee took private meetings with over a dozen members of Congress. He briefed the lawmakers, all of which were Democrats sans one, and gave her “professional warning” to the concerned members. “He’s going to unravel,” Lee said, “and we are seeing the signs.” 

Lee has a coalition of psychiatrists to back her up

trump with flynn and transition team

There is a whole coalition that is concerned with Donald Trump’s mental health. | Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Lee is editor of The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President, a call from thousands of experts to warn against “the president’s psychological instability and the dangers it poses.”

The coalition’s website asks lawmakers, mental health professionals, and anyone interested in learning more to register for their forum or view it. They recently released a statement after Trump tweeted at North Korea’s supreme leader, further “baiting Kim Jung Un [sic] into a potential nuclear war.” The coalition felt that Trump is unraveling, and his nuclear threats are a sign of it.

Here are Lee’s points

Donald Trump

Trump has said and done some very delusional things. | Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Lee and the coalition believe that Trump’s “decreasing mental health” is evident when he addresses conspiracy theories, denies things he has previously admitted, and publicly shares violent videos. For example, Trump admitted to and apologized for comments he made on an Access Hollywood tape, then later denied that the voice in question was his.

After The New York Times reported Trump was questioning the accuracy of the tape, a former campaign aide called the story a “shot across the bow to invoke the 25th amendment.”

She was surprised by the level of interest in Washington

The Washington State Capitol building under a partly cloudy sky

Lee had no idea so many people in Washington would be interested in what she had to say. | Seastock Getty Images

Lee said she was surprised by the level of interest in her research during her time in Washington. “One senator said that it was the meeting he most looked forward to in 11 years,” Lee said. “Their level of concern about the president’s dangerousness was surprisingly high.”

Some of the interest may be attributed to a recent bout of tweets the president sent out, taunting Kim Jong-un with a “my-nuclear-button-is-bigger-than-yours” claim. “Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!” the president tweeted.

The 25th Amendment is being brought up frequently

donald trump meeting with the press at the white house

Trump could be ousted from the presidency if deemed mentally unfit. | Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images

The 25th amendment allows the vice president and a majority of the Cabinet to remove the president from office if they find him physically or mentally “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”

The amendment is set up to require a high burden of proof on the part of the vice president and the majority of Trump’s Cabinet, yet Trump’s actions may have led members of his own party to deem him unfit. Take Richard Painter, a chief White House ethics lawyer who served under George W. Bush. “This Tweet alone is grounds for removal from office under the 25th Amendment,” he tweeted, addressing the president’s comments, “This man should not have nukes.”

A leading conservative voice in Washington gave his views

US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump attend a Hanukkah reception

Trump could now be turning off his republican counterparts. | Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Bill Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard and “one of Washington’s leading conservative voices,” according to Politico, said that while the initial response among Republicans was “anti-alarmism,” that shifted drastically following Trump’s “sudden fit of saber-rattling.”

“I was focused on Iran, and talking to people in the administration about serious policy,” Kristol said, “and then to see in the middle of what might be a serious policymaking process, Trump’s just flipping out.” Kristol later tweeted: “I trust @VP has asked his Counsel to prepare a draft document transferring power in accord with Sec. 4 of 25th Amendment in case it’s suddenly needed, & that he’s discussed this with COS Kelly.”

Not all experts agree

Trump holding a pen in the white house

Not everyone thinks putting this type of spotlight on Trump’s mental health is the best idea. | Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

While the team of psychiatrists is in general agreement, there are legal experts who fear that opening the conversation about President’ Trump’s mental health could be “dangerous to democracy.”

“The 25th Amendment would require, for mental incapacity, a major psychotic break,” said former Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz. “This is hope over reality. If we don’t like someone’s politics we rail against him, we campaign against him, we don’t use the psychiatric system against him. That’s just dangerous.”

Here’s what could happen next

US President Donald Trump speaks

It seems like this matter will be thoroughly investigated. | Saul Loeb/ AFP/ Getty Images

Lee was invited to speak in front of yet another group of lawmakers, hosted by Connecticut Democratic Rep. Rosa DeLauro in her home. Maryland Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin also invited her to speak at a town hall. Raskin has proposed a bill to set up a committee tasked with evaluating Trump’s “fitness for office.”

“The judgment [about the president’s mental state] is not mine to make,” Raskin said in an interview. “The judgment constitutionally is to be made by the vice president and the Cabinet, or the vice president and a new body. We have an institutional responsibility to set that body up.”

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