Part XIII. The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: A Letter to Congress

11/11/2017 02:31 pm ET Updated Nov 16, 2017

In a previous article, I described the “eye of the hurricane” during the late summer and early fall in which we were living in a collective doldrums born of news-fatigue from months of Hurricane Trump. Although North Korea launching missiles had terrified us a few short weeks previously, new launches barely caused a stir as we tried to get on with our lives. Despite the appearance of collective apathy, the eerie quiet was a consequence of people caring, not too little, but too much. The apparent normalization of deeply disturbing actions on the part of Trump emanated from avoidance (very different from apathy) born of powerlessness as we anesthetized ourselves to the overpowering destruction of American values and exhaustion at our failures to counter.

We knew in our hearts that the eye of Hurricane Trump would soon be passing and that the resurgent tail would arrive with mounting intensity as the Robert Mueller investigation gained force. That is now happening. Winds are whipping up as indictments hone ever closer to Trump himself.

In a pathetic rendition of “protesting too much” in this morning’s headlines, Trump emerged from a brief meeting with Putin in Hanoi, insisting that every time he sees him, he asks him if he meddled in the 2016 election, and every time Putin “vehemently” denies the charge. Can Trump possibly be so oblivious to the obvious conclusion that if he really believed Putin, why on earth would he keep asking him the same question every chance he gets? And similarly, why would Putin offer repeated denial?

By far, the worst is yet to come. Trump’s dangerous emotional instability is vastly underappreciated, especially in light of his ability to launch nuclear missiles unopposed in under five minutes. In a flashing code-red alert, the following letter has been sent to every member of the US House and Senate by the authors of the bestselling new book, The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, and their colleagues.

November 11, 2017

Dear Congress Member:

Since the election of 2016, an increasing number of mental health professionals have come forth to warn against President Trump’s psychological instability and its implications for national and international security. Over time, the signs of his instability have only grown worse: we have watched as Mr. Trump’s provocation of North Korea and alienation of our allies have augmented the dangers we face abroad, while his incitements and endorsements of aggression have laid down the groundwork for a culture of violence at home.

Six months ago, a group of us put our concerns into a book, The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President. Since release, it has become an instant bestseller with the public. Macmillan, a top publisher, could not keep up with the demand for weeks. Everything we have warned about in the book has come true. Our ultimate concern is happening now.

The developments with the special counsel’s investigations are not just a matter of criminal indictment but of critical concern with respect to the president’s mental stability. He has shown marked signs of impairment and psychological disability under ordinary circumstances, unable to cope with the slightest criticism or unpleasant news. With additional stressors, his condition will assuredly grow worse. We fear that this difference will bring us over the brink into disaster, where even ultimate destruction will be possible.

As mental health professionals, some of us with expertise on violence, we deal with risk of harm as a routine part of our practice. When someone exhibits signs of danger to oneself, others, or the general public, it is considered an emergency. All 50 states confer to us the legal authority, sometimes obligation, to act. When someone poses a threat, our response is as follows: (a) containment; (b) removal from access to weapons; and (c) an urgent evaluation. As health professionals, we cannot choose not to treat in an emergency, regardless of whether the person is our patient or has offered consent.

Mr. Trump has far exceeded our usual threshold for detaining someone in order to evaluate for signs of danger. Just a few of these signs would be: verbal threats of violence, a history of sexual assault, incitement of violence, an attraction to violence and powerful weapons (the more powerful the weapons, the greater the temptation to use them), and the taunting of hostile nations with nuclear power. Traits that are highly associated with danger include: impulsivity, recklessness, paranoia, loss of touch with reality, a lack of empathy, rage reactions, and a constant need to demonstrate power. These traits make one incapable of thinking rationally, and the usual deterrents, such as a nuclear holocaust or even the annihilation of humankind, will not likely deter someone who is preoccupied by internal needs.

We are concerned enough to be ready to present to your office, at the soonest occasion possible, to explain our professional observations in person. While those who contributed to the book number at 27, there are hundreds of us, if not thousands, of the same medical consensus—and we are ready to communicate our case to you, should you choose to hear us. (917) 328-2492; bandy.lee@yale.edu.

Sincerely,

Bandy X. Lee, M.D., M.Div. Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, CT

Judith L. Herman, M.D. Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA

Philip Zimbardo, Ph.D. Professor Emeritus of Psychology, Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA

Craig Malkin, Ph.D. Lecturer of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA

Lance Dodes, M.D. Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry (retired), Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA

Michael J. Tansey, Ph.D. Assistant Professor (retired), Northwestern Medical School, Chicago, IL

David M. Reiss, M.D. Private Practitioner of Psychiatry, San Diego, CA

Leonard L. Glass, M.D., M.P.H. Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA

Henry J. Friedman, M.D. Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA

James Gilligan, M.D. Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY

Diane Jhueck, L.M.H.C. County Designated Mental Health Professional, Island County, WA

Howard H. Covitz, Ph.D., A.B.P.P. (Former) Director, Institute for Psychoanalytic Psychotherapies, Philadelphia, PA

Betty P. Teng, L.M.S.W. Psychotherapist, Institute for Contemporary Psychotherapy, New York, NY

Jennifer C. Panning, Psy.D. Clinical Psychologist, Evanston, IL

Harper West, M.A., L.L.P. Licensed Psychotherapist, Clarkston, MI

Luba Kessler, M.D. (Former) Faculty, Institute for Psychoanalytic Education (New York University), New York, NY

Steve Wruble, M.D. Private Practitioner of Psychiatry, New York, NY, and Ridgewood, NJ

Elizabeth Mika, M.A., L.C.P.C. Clinical Psychologist, Chicago, IL

Edwin B. Fisher, Ph.D. Professor of Health Behavior, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC

Nanette Gartrell, M.D. (Former) Associate Professor of Psychiatry, University of California School of Medicine, San Francisco, CA

Dee Mosbacher, M.D., Ph.D. (Former) Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, University of California School of Medicine, San Francisco, CA

Frederick M. Burkle Jr., M.D., M.P.H., D.T.M. Psychiatrist, Pediatrician, and Professor of Emergency Medicine (retired), Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA

Stay tuned.

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