Psychiatrists “Deeply Concerned” by Trump’s Instability Call for Urgent Mental Health Evaluation

StoryDecember 15, 2017
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We continue our interview with someone who’s led a discussion of mental health professionals who are deeply concerned about President Trump’s psychological instability. Dr. Bandy Lee is a forensic psychiatrist on the faculty of Yale School of Medicine who organized the “Duty to Warn” conference at Yale and edited the best-selling book, “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President.”

Dr. Bandy Lee declares that she is not representing the views of Yale University, Yale School of Medicine or Yale Department of Psychiatry.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Last month, Pentagon leaders told a Senate panel they would ignore any unlawful order by President Donald Trump to launch a nuclear strike. The testimony came as part of the first congressional hearings in more than 40 years on the president’s authority to start a nuclear war. This is Connecticut Democratic Senator Chris Murphy.

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY: We are concerned that the president of the United States is so unstable, is so volatile, has a decision-making process that is so quixotic, that he might order a nuclear weapon strike that is wildly out of step with U.S. national security interests.

AMY GOODMAN: We turn right now to a doctor who’s led a discussion of mental health professionals who are deeply concerned about President Trump’s psychological stability. Dr. Bandy Lee is a forensic psychiatrist on the faculty of Yale School of Medicine, an internationally recognized expert on violence. She organized the “Duty to Warn” conference at Yale and edited the book The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President. The book became a best-seller the instant it was published in October, sold out, resupplied, sold out again. We’re bringing you Part 2 of our conversation today with Dr. Lee, when I asked about the concerns that she and these other experts have identified.

DR. BANDY LEE: Well, it’s actually historically unprecedented that so many mental health professionals have come forth with their concerns, under any president, of any party. So it really is the first time that this many mental health professionals are coming together in a coalition. We even have a website now, DangerousCase.org, where the public and lawmakers can discourse with us. There are thousands of us at this point.

AMY GOODMAN: So talk about—lay out what your concerns are as a psychiatrist.

DR. BANDY LEE: So, our concerns are that someone with this level of mental instability and impairment has this much power, in the office of the presidency—basically, the power to start a devastating war, to launch nuclear missiles, without any inhibition. You saw from the hearings that there is very little inhibition in place right now. Within five minutes of the commander-in-chief’s orders, nuclear missiles could be launched without question. And—

AMY GOODMAN: And how does that relate to his mental fitness?

DR. BANDY LEE: And, of course, his decision-making capacity, having such levels of impulsivity, having a loose grip on reality and being so fragile in his ability to cope with ordinary stresses, such as basic criticisms or unflattering news, will tend to unravel, especially in times of heightened stress, such as under the special counsel’s investigations.

AMY GOODMAN: Just last week, Tony Schwartz, author of—well, co-author of Trump’s book, The Art of the Deal, told MSNBC’s Ari Melber that the president’s inner circle is worried about his mental state.

TONY SCHWARTZ: I know that two different people from the White House, or at least saying they were from the White House, and that turned out to be a White House number, have called somebody I know in the last several weeks to say, “We are deeply concerned about his mental health.” That’s—

ARI MELBER: Wait a minute. You’re saying you have knowledge of people calling from a White House line raising that question. Why would they do that? How do you know that?

TONY SCHWARTZ: I know that because I know the person that they called. And this is a person who I absolutely trust, who has great integrity.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that was Tony Schwartz, who I think ghostwrote the book The Art of the Deal, very close to Trump for a period of time. What are your thoughts about what he said?

DR. BANDY LEE: Well, as you know, he has a chapter in the book, even though he’s not counted among the 27 experts. We do have three others who have been included for their special insight, their special experience with Mr. Trump. And we included him because he has special insight into these matters. And I would agree with his assessment. We speak often. We share our observations. And we’re both deeply concerned.

AMY GOODMAN: The chapter that Tony Schwartz wrote in your book, “I wrote The Art of the Deal with Donald Trump. His self-sabotage is rooted in his past.” Explain his point here.

DR. BANDY LEE: Well, there’s actually a lot that’s outlined. It’s a reprint of an article that he wrote, I believe for The New Yorker. He outlines very much his interactions and experiences with the president. And he describes, most markedly, this emptiness, this—what he calls a black hole level of self-esteem or self-worth that is missing, whereby he can have all the admiration of the world, all of the successes, and he will—his thirst will never be quenched, because of that intense need. And that is what we’re seeing, over and over.

And what is most concerning for us is that his way of coping with this critical sense of need at every moment, so much, to the point where he cannot think of the past or the future or consequences, his main urgency is to quench the need at the moment. And the way he does this is by burnishing his power, by going to belligerent language or affirming conflicts and others’ sense of the world as a threatening place where you have to be violent.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina speaking about, well, then-candidate Donald Trump. This was back in 2016.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM: I’m not going to try to get into the mind of Donald Trump, because I don’t think there’s a whole lot of space there. I think he’s a kook. I think he’s crazy. I think he’s unfit for office.

AMY GOODMAN: So that was Graham in 2016. But Senator Graham sounded different last month, when he spoke to CNN.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM: You know, what concerns me about the American press is this endless, endless attempt to label the guy as some kind of kook, not fit to be president.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that is Senator Graham now. What about what he’s saying?

DR. BANDY LEE: I think the laypersons, the public or lawmakers, would be prone to underestimating the dangers of this president, because most people are used to seeing individuals who are healthy. It’s only professionals who see those who are impaired, day in and day out. And so, the natural tendency will be to interpret what they’re seeing in terms of a normal range, a normal variation of human choices, decision making and behavior. What we are—what we feel pressed to do is to warn about the situation where someone is not acting within normal range, where one is normalizing what is in fact a malignancy in one’s interpretation of reality.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Bandy Lee is a forensic psychiatrist on the faculty of Yale School of Medicine, internationally recognized expert on violence. She organized the “Duty to Warn” conference at Yale and edited the book The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President. The book became a best-seller the instant it was published in October. It sold out, resupplied, sold out again.

To see the whole interview [Part 1, Part 2] with Dr. Bandy Lee, you can go to democracynow.org.

Also, earlier this week, we played interviews with two women who have accused Donald Trump of sexual misconduct, Jessica Leeds and Samantha Holvey, who were part of a news conference this week in New York calling on Congress to investigate the president of the United States. You can see those interviews at democracynow.org.

And that does it for our show. Happy birthday tomorrow to Renée Feltz!

The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to democracynow.org. Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.

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