- Bandy Leeforensic psychiatrist on the faculty of Yale School of Medicine and an internationally recognized expert on violence. She is the editor of the best-selling book, The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President.
Donald Trump openly mocked Dr. Christine Blasey Ford at a rally Tuesday, casting doubt on her claims that Brett Kavanaugh had tried to rape her in high school, just days after calling her a very credible witness. As the FBI continues its investigation into Dr. Blasey Ford’s claims, a group of mental health experts are calling for Kavanaugh to undergo a full psychological and substance abuse assessment before the Senate votes on his confirmation. We speak with Dr. Bandy Lee of the Yale School of Medicine, the lead author of a letter titled “Mental Health Experts Urge Examination Based on Warning Signs in Kavanaugh Testimony.” The letter reads, “Judge Kavanaugh exhibited behavior that, if engaged in during his possible tenure as a Supreme Court Justice, would yield a dangerous combination of instability and power.” Dr. Lee is a forensic psychiatrist on the faculty of Yale School of Medicine and Yale graduate who has taught at Yale Law School for the past fifteen years.
AMY GOODMAN: On Tuesday night, President Trump openly mocked Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, the California psychologist who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of attempting to rape her when she was 15 years old. During a rally in Southaven, Mississippi, Trump cast doubt on her claim.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: What he’s going through—36 years ago, this happened. I had one beer, right? I had one beer. Well, do you think it was—no, it was one beer. Oh, good. How did you get home? I don’t remember. How’d you get there? I don’t remember. Where is the place? I don’t remember. How many years ago was it? I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know! I don’t know! What neighborhood was it in? I don’t know. Where is the house? I don’t know. Upstairs, downstairs, where was it? I don’t know. But I had one beer. That’s the only thing I remember. And a man’s life is in tatters. A man’s life is shattered. His wife is shattered. His daughters, who are beautiful, incredible young kids—they destroy people. They want to destroy people. These are really evil people.
AMY GOODMAN: President Trump’s mocking of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford came just days after he described her as a very credible witness.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I thought her testimony was very compelling, and she looks like a very fine woman to me. Very fine woman. And I thought that Brett’s testimony, likewise, was really something that I haven’t seen before. It was incredible. It was an incredible moment, I think, in the history of our country. But, certainly, she was a very credible witness. She was very good in many respects.
AMY GOODMAN: President Trump himself has been accused of sexual assault or harassment by at least 16 women.
This all comes as the FBI continues its investigation into multiple allegations of sexual misconduct against Judge Kavanaugh. The Washington Post is reporting FBI agents spoke on Tuesday with a former Georgetown Prep classmate of Kavanaugh’s named Tim Gaudette. He hosted the party on July 1st, 1982, which investigators have been zeroing in on. According to his own calendar, Kavanaugh drank along with two other classmates who were identified by Blasey Ford as present at the gathering when she was allegedly sexually assaulted.
Meanwhile, The New York Times has obtained a 1983 letter written by Kavanaugh to friends who were renting a beach house together. In the letter, Kavanaugh wrote that whoever arrived first at the condo should, quote, “warn the neighbors that we’re loud, obnoxious drunks with prolific pukers among us,” unquote.
We turn now to look at how a group of mental health experts are urging the examination of the Supreme Court nominee and stating he has, quote, “demonstrated a pattern that’s consistent with someone struggling with an alcohol problem.” In a letter, the mental health experts write of Kavanaugh’s emotional and often explosively angry testimony last week, quote, “Judge Kavanaugh exhibited behavior that, if engaged in during his possible tenure as a Supreme Court Justice, would yield a dangerous combination of instability and power. At the hearing, Judge Kavanaugh manipulated and evaded direct and substantive responses, denigrated those who challenged him, and accused many of conspiring against him. All that behavior reflects an underlying belief that he is above norms and laws,” unquote.
Well, for more, we’re joined by the lead author of this letter, Dr. Bandy X. Lee. She’s a forensic psychiatrist on the faculty of Yale School of Medicine, an internationally recognized expert on violence, the editor of the best-selling book The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President.
We’ll get to the president in a minute, but you have issued this new letter around Judge Kavanaugh. Dr. Lee, explain what you observed, whether you have the right to observe from afar, not having analyzed him yourself personally, and what you’re calling for.
DR. BANDY LEE: First of all, I would clarify that we’re not diagnosing Judge Kavanaugh. And we don’t purport to be able to make any assessment other than we can, other than calling for an evaluation, as we are doing, due to the troubling signs that we see.
The letter itself was actually written by a group of us in the National Coalition of Concerned Mental Health Experts. It’s the same group that also called for an evaluation of the president.
Some of the troubling signs that we saw were poor regulation of emotion, evasion of questions, exaggerated entitlement—which actually makes someone more likely to be capable of violating others’ rights. Other troubling signs that we’ve seen were paranoia, conspiracy theories and an inability to have empathy for others. Those were some of the signs that we feel, as mental health professionals—it is our duty to call out signs that are abnormal and signs that indicate possibly a troubling condition on the part of Mr. Kavanaugh.
AMY GOODMAN: And who is he—sorry, who are “we found”? How many people have signed onto this letter?
DR. BANDY LEE: So far, about 150 have signed on. Our group is actually quite large, several thousand in number, but it’s often hard to get everyone mobilized within just a couple days. So, we issued the letter and sent it out to the FBI, to senators and to the media.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to Judge Brett Kavanaugh giving part of his opening statement last Thursday. Obviously, this was right after Dr. Blasey Ford, obviously enraged.
JUDGE BRETT KAVANAUGH: This whole 2-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit, fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election, fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record, revenge on behalf of the Clintons, and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups. This is a circus.
AMY GOODMAN: I’d like to go back to Judge Kavanaugh’s hearing last Thursday, when Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar questioned him about his drinking. She had just revealed her father was an alcoholic and still goes to AA at the age of 90.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR: Was there ever a time when you drank so much that you couldn’t remember what happened or part of what happened the night before?
JUDGE BRETT KAVANAUGH: No, I—no. I remember what happened. And I think you’ve probably had beer, Senator. And so—
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR: So you’re saying there’s never been a case where you drank so much that you didn’t remember what happened the night before or part of what happened?
JUDGE BRETT KAVANAUGH: It’s—you’re asking about, yeah, blackout. I don’t know. Have you?
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR: Could you answer the question, Judge? I just—so, you—that’s not happened. Is that your answer?
JUDGE BRETT KAVANAUGH: Yeah, and I’m curious if you have.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR: I have no drinking problem, Judge.
JUDGE BRETT KAVANAUGH: Yeah. Nor do I.
AMY GOODMAN: Your thoughts, Dr. Bandy Lee, on that interaction of Judge Kavanaugh with Senator Klobuchar?
DR. BANDY LEE: Well, denial, deflection and annoyance at criticism about one’s drinking are actually symptoms of alcohol use disorder. It comes with psychological signs, as well as the physiological dependence. And even just looking at him, there are signs such as rosacea or reddening of the central areas of his face. This does not mean that we can diagnose alcohol use disorder, but they certainly point to the possibility. Also, drinking that has begun at an early age and heavy drinking in one’s youth makes one vulnerable to alcoholism later in life. So, it would be important to assess whether he suffers from it and whether it would affect his functioning.
AMY GOODMAN: And who are you meeting with? You just came from Washington recently?
DR. BANDY LEE: Recently, yes. I was invited to speak about the 25th Amendment immediately after some concerns that were raised after the U.N. press conference, as well as—there was the letter in The New York Times by an anonymous White House official and Bob Woodward’s new book. So, for various reasons, I was called by the Aspen Institute to speak about the 25th Amendment.
AMY GOODMAN: And we’re going to get to the 25th Amendment in a moment. You are part of this movement called Duty to Warn. And if you can explain—or you started it—if you can explain what that is and how you feel that’s relevant in Judge Kavanaugh’s case?
DR. BANDY LEE: Yes. It’s quite parallel to the concerns that we’ve had about the president. In fact, when the president was about to issue—or, nominate the Supreme Court nominee, we issued a letter to Senate and House members, expressing our concerns about the signs that the president was showing of, you know, a lack of a capacity to make important decisions. And so we actually thought that it was injudicious to allow him to nominate a Supreme Court nominee, as well as to make important trips such as the Helsinki meeting. And nothing really came of that. That was actually a different group, a group of prominent psychiatrists and myself. But in terms of the Duty to Warn, I know there’s a group out there that took the name and call themselves Duty to Warn, but it came out of my conference, which I organized a year and a half ago.
AMY GOODMAN: At Yale University.
DR. BANDY LEE: Yes, that’s right, about the ethical question of, basically, the professional responsibility of the importance of restricting what we say, which has revolved around the Goldwater rule, with respect to a public figure, and our societal responsibility to educate, to promote public health and to warn when necessary. And we came to the conclusion that there are instances where we do have a duty to warn. In fact, in psychiatry, we have a duty to warn and a duty to protect, when it comes to patients. And the same should also apply with respect to society, because the ethical guidelines make clear that we have a duty to patients and a separate duty to society.
If I may, I’ll explain a little bit about the Goldwater rule, which many have heard of. It has been adulterated, in a sense, to mean prohibition only. But the original Goldwater rule actually falls under the principle that we contribute to the improvement of the community and the betterment of public health. And so, it’s actually a mandate to act. And—
AMY GOODMAN: Explain who Goldwater was.
DR. BANDY LEE: The Goldwater rule came about because the psychiatric profession was embarrassed during the 1964 Barry Goldwater campaign for presidency. Fact magazine put out a survey to about 12,000 psychiatrists, and about less than 10 percent came back saying that Mr. Goldwater was unfit to be president, and gave all kinds of diagnoses. And because of that, the magazine was sued, and they went out of business. But the American Psychiatric Association, because of the embarrassment to the profession, decided to institute it as an ethical rule not to diagnose a public figure without a personal examination and without authorization—which I actually agree with. It just follows along the general principles of good practice.
But the Goldwater rule, as it is stated, says that when you’re asked about a public figure, educate the public, just don’t diagnose. That is what it says. And under the principle that it falls—that it falls under, it’s actually a mandate to act, not just a prohibition. But two months since this presidency, two months after inauguration, the American Psychiatric Association actually changed the meaning of the Goldwater rule, not to just prohibit diagnosis, but to prohibit any comment whatsoever about a public figure under any circumstance, even when the nation is thought to be in danger.
AMY GOODMAN: Which is something you’re not willing to abide by. Now, you have—is that right?
DR. BANDY LEE: Right.