Some Democratic lawmakers are renewing their campaign this week questioning President Trump’s mental fitness for office, aided by a psychiatrist who is drawing ethics rebukes from her peers for giving opinions about the president without having examined him.
Lawmakers will gather for dinner Wednesday night at the Washington home of Rep. Rosa DeLauro, Connecticut Democrat, in a “salon-like” setting to hear from Dr. Bandy Lee, a Yale University professor and forensic psychiatrist who believes Mr. Trump is “dangerous” and requires a mental-capacity exam.
DeLauro spokesman Will Serio confirmed the planned dinner meeting, but couldn’t say how many lawmakers are expected to attend.
He said the event “isn’t about achieving anything per se — simply a discussion on a topic currently in the news, and Dr. Lee can make her views known to those members who want to attend.”
Democratic lawmakers have been raising questions about Mr. Trump’s mental fitness since last spring. Dr. Lee, who has co-authored a book asserting the president’s unfitness for office, held a similar meeting last month with about a dozen House and Senate Democrats.
In an interview with Vox, Dr. Lee cited several reasons for her concern that Mr. Trump is a danger to the public, including the “sheer frequency of his tweets [that] seemed to reflect the frantic state of mind he was entering, and his retweeting some violent anti-Muslim videos showed a concerning attraction to violence. And then there were the belligerent nuclear threats” toward North Korea.
“We are mainly concerned that an emergency evaluation be done,” Dr. Lee said. “We are assessing dangerousness, not making a diagnosis.”
The White House has said Mr. Trump retweeted the videos in November to illustrate the need for greater spending on national security and the military, after high-profile terrorist attacks last year in Britain and in the U.S.
Since the start of his presidency, Mr. Trump has taken a harder line with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un over Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons and missile tests. After more U.S. sanctions and the president’s get-tough rhetoric, North Korea is set to resume talks with South Korea on Tuesday.
Dr. Lee is taking some professional criticism for offering her opinions on what she calls the president’s “mental health crisis.” Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, former president of the American Psychiatric Association, called it “political partisanship disguised as patriotism.”
“More than any other medical specialty, psychiatry is vulnerable to being exploited for partisan political purposes and for bypassing due process for establishing guilt, fault, and fact,” Dr. Lieberman wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine.
“While citizens have an obligation to speak out against government injustice,” he said, “that does not mean that psychiatrists can use their medical credentials to brand elected officials with neuropsychiatric diagnoses without sufficient evidence and appropriate circumstances. To do so undermines the profession’s integrity and credibility.”
White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley on Monday slammed speculation about the president’s mental health.
“The left’s continued talking points of Republicans are just ‘stupid, can’t accomplish things and don’t have the capacity to serve’ is just ridiculous,” Mr. Gidley said. “It is absolute dereliction of duty for journalists to report as fact psychiatrists who have never sat down with the president, have a conversation with the president. It is repugnant.”
He said the record of Mr. Trump’s performance in office is different “than what the media is trying to portray.”
“He’s brilliant, not just in the business world, but as a political tactician, as a president — the accomplishments speak for themselves,” Mr. Gidley said. “I’ve met with him multiple occasions. He’s sharp as a tack. He’s a workhorse, and he demands his staff be the same way.”
Harvard University constitutional law professor Noah Feldman likewise has criticized such impersonal evaluations, saying “psychiatrists have the most to answer for.”
“They haven’t examined Trump,” he wrote for Bloomberg View. “They haven’t subjected him to the protocols of personality instruments and assessments that would go into an ordinary diagnosis. Rather, they are leveraging their professional knowledge and status to ‘assess’ his mental health for purposes of political criticism.”
Mr. Trump has been defending his mental abilities in recent days, especially after publication of a book by author Michael Wolff that alleges that White House aides have concerns about the president’s capabilities.
“Throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart,” Mr. Trump tweeted.
In interviews, Mr. Wolff asserts that White House advisers have discussed the 25th Amendment, which provides for the removal of a president if he’s no longer capable of performing his duties. Dr. Lee said she also has been “put in touch with the original drafters of the 25th Amendment at Fordham Law School, and so we’ll see if they will give input.”
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has called questions about the president’s mental health “absolutely outrageous.”
Dr. Lieberman said psychiatrists offering opinions about the president are violating the so-called “Goldwater rule,” which bans them from commenting on the mental health of public figures. In March, the American Psychiatric Association expanded the rule, also barring members from sharing “an opinion about the affect, behavior, speech, or other presentation of an individual” based on professional skills.
Dr. Lee said she disagrees with that rule.
“The concern is … we will easily fall into complicity and compliance with political pressures, especially if they are likely to subject us to the very dangers we are warning about, just for issuing the warning,” she told Vox.
The president is scheduled for a physical exam on Friday at Walter Reed Medical Center, the first such exam of his presidency. The White House has promised to give a public report on the exam, as is traditional. These presidential physical typically doesn’t include a mental-health evaluation.