Reported by Kimberly Leonard | June 05, 2019 12:00 AM
Democrats are planning to host a Capitol Hill event featuring psychiatrists who will warn that President Trump is unfit for office based on his mental health. The event will be led by Dr. Bandy Lee, a Yale School of Medicine psychiatrist and editor of The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, a book that argues psychiatrists have a responsibility to warn the public when a president is dangerous. The position is controversial because psychiatric associations urge members never to diagnose patients they haven’t personally evaluated, saying it undermines the scientific rigor of the profession.
But Lee and others who agree with her stance say that their description of the president’s behavior, of his showing mental instability and dangerousness, shouldn’t be interpreted as issuing a diagnosis.
“The president’s condition has been visibly deteriorating to the point where there’s a lot of talk right now about his mental state beyond mental health professionals,”Lee said. “It no longer takes a mental health professional to recognize the seriousness of the current presidency.”
The date for the town hall hasn’t been set but would be held “imminently soon within the next couple of weeks,” said Lee, who said the event was meant to be bipartisan. Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth, D-Ky., who has called for Trump’s impeachment, confirmed the event was in the works, but said it would be more likely to occur in July because lawmakers have a full plate in June with spending bills.
“We’re planning to put together an event,” Yarmuth said. “She’s calling it a town hall. We haven’t actually determined the format, but it’s going to be an event where she is going to present her findings, and media will be invited.”
Yarmuth said every House member would be invited but that he hadn’t yet gauged who would be interested because not many people knew about it. Lee said the group would reconsider the event if no Republicans planned to show up.
The White House did not immediately return a request for comment.
According to Lee, attendees at the town hall would watch a condensed video that was recorded at a Washington, D.C., event held at the National Press Club in March that featured 13 experts discussing how they didn’t think Trump was fit for office. The experts, who came from the fields of mental health, philosophy, history, and journalism, said they were worried about the president’s access to nuclear weapons and the impact his administration would have on climate change.
Lee said the event is to allow members of Congress to ask her and other experts questions, but planners hope the town hall will be broadcast live so that people who aren’t in D.C. also would be able to watch and submit questions.
Lee said the experts won’t make specific recommendations about whether Congress should consider invoking the 25th Amendment to remove the president from office or whether they should do so by impeachment. The political process should be determined by members of Congress, she said.
Yarmuth said that, to him, the event was a separate question from impeachment. “I don’t think an assessment of someone’s mental health is an impeachable issue,” he said. He decided to hold the event “for the same fears she has,”he said, referring to Lee. “That the president is manifesting dangerous behavior and the American people need to be alert to it.”
“Their position is that as professionals, when they see patterns of behavior that are endangering people, that they have a professional obligation to go public and alert the people who are threatened, and in this case it’s the American people,” Yarmuth said. “I think the American people deserve to have wider dissemination of that perspective.”
It’s not yet clear who else will participate. Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., who has a 25th Amendment bill that would set up a body in Congress to determine presidential fitness, had been asked to be on a panel that was based on the topic and set for sometime around May 20. The panel was then canceled or postponed because of scheduling conflicts, and Raskin’s office said it hadn’t heard about a new one in the works.
His deputy communications director, Samantha Brown, said in an email that he likely would have discussed the 25th Amendment from a historical and legal perspective.
Lee has been outspoken about Trump’s mental state. She’s the public face of a five-person group that is meeting regularly in D.C. and working to set up a medical panel to evaluate the mental capacity of Trump and Democratic presidential candidates.
“It’s deceptive because it seems like he’s alert, it seems like he’s responding to things in a rational manner, but it is not the case from every measure that we have taken,” Lee said of Trump. “And this is very serious. In fact, worse than if he had a stroke and were unconscious because he can mislead the country in destructive or nefarious ways.”
One of the other members of the working group is Dr. James Merikangas, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at George Washington University, but the others haven’t identified themselves publicly and aren’t known to the Washington Examiner.
In April, Lee and other psychiatrists wrote a report using the former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian election interference to make an assessment about the president’s mental health. They at first refrained from issuing a conclusion and gave Trump three weeks to undergo an evaluation. After they didn’t hear back, they released a conclusion that Trump “lacks mental basic mental capacity for duties of office” and recommended his access to nuclear weapons and war powers be curtailed.
“Our concern is that the dangers be contained — the dangers of having a president who lacks the mental capacity, lacks the fitness to discharge his duties of office for the remainder of his term,”Lee said. “I mean, this is really a national emergency.”