Yale psychiatrist: Trump's "lack of conscience" makes the president "capable of criminal activity"

"Because he never addresses the source of his inner emptiness, it remains ever unfilled," Dr. Bandy X. Lee argues

Published March 12, 2019 3:40PM (EDT)

Donald Trump hugs the U.S. flag during CPAC 2019 on March 02, 2019 in National Harbor, Maryland. (Getty/Tasos Katopodis)
Donald Trump hugs the U.S. flag during CPAC 2019 on March 02, 2019 in National Harbor, Maryland. (Getty/Tasos Katopodis)

This article originally appeared on Raw Story

The Republican apparatus is lining up behind Donald Trump’s re-election campaign, despite the President’s many legal troubles, from the Russia investigation to pay-offs to Stormy Daniels. His former campaign manager Paul Manafort and his former fixer Michael Cohen are both serving prison terms for crimes they committed while being closely associated with the Trump businesses and campaign.

Nevertheless, Trump seem eager to persevere over his Democratic challengers and is setting a harsh tone for the upcoming campaign: on Monday, he accused the party of harboring anti-Jewish sentiment.

Raw Story spoke with Dr. Bandy X. Lee, a forensic psychiatrist at Yale School of Medicine, about the current political moment, the President’s mental state, and an upcoming conference by the World Mental Health Coalition, an organization of mental health experts who are seeking to eliminate the problem of dangerous disorders in leadership by offering fitness-for-duty exams.

She edited the New York Times bestseller, “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President,” to be released in an expanded edition next week. She is the newly-appointed president of the World Mental Health Coalition, formerly the National Coalition of Concerned Mental Health Experts, which has joined with international partners to form the new organization.

Lee is organizing an interdisciplinary conference next week in Washington, DC, on the same day as the release of her new book (for more information, go to: dangerouscase.org).

Raw Story: Donald Trump and his team are launching “the largest campaign operation in American history,” with record-breaking fundraising. Yet he’s under siege, with Robert Mueller’s report about to be released, and his associates going to prison. Is there a contradiction between his apparent confidence and the legal troubles he’s facing?

Bandy X. Lee: Of course there are practical reasons for his campaign, such as his wishing to avoid prison by remaining president, but that is a rational consideration. His force and zeal come from a much more primitive place—such as needing to prove to himself and others at all cost that he is not a criminal and therefore worthy of existence.

This is what his fixation on crowd size is about. A Finnish reporter who was at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) could not believe he was still talking about his inauguration crowd! The will to survive psychologically is one of the strongest forces we have, and he is literally fighting for his life.

Self-worth, or love for oneself, is like oxygen: we don’t notice it until it is absent, at which time it becomes a critical emergency. His ghostwriter Tony Schwartz, who contributed to our book, called him “a living black hole.” He sucks up everything through lying, manipulating, and stealing, including the highest office in the land, but because he never addresses the source of his inner emptiness, it remains ever unfilled.

When he chanted, “Lock her up!” about Hillary Clinton, he was essentially giving away that he feels himself deserving to be locked up, but since this feeling is too devastating to own, he projects it outward and claims the opposite. This is a very common pattern. He is dangerous not only because his lack of conscience and overwhelming hunger make him capable of criminal activity, but because any further humiliation will cause him to stop at nothing to reclaim a sense of power, and nuclear weapons are well-poised to serve this role.

That is a frightening proposition.

Raw Story: Can you describe some of the psychological patterns you find alarming?

Certain things I cannot know without an examination, but there is a lot I can know, and with all the high-quality data that are available, I now know as much about his patterns as any patient I have ever examined. Just about every hypothesis I would have tested in an office setting has been demonstrated in real life, in real time with real consequences, and it would be dishonest for me to pretend this were not the case.

Many clinicians feel this way. Expertise means you have spent a lot of time training to see things ordinary people do not see. Even with the same information, what is medically noteworthy is not necessarily what ordinary people notice.

My grandfather was a celebrated internist, and after treating patients 20 hours a day for decades, he said he could diagnose them as they crossed over the threshold to his office. Any tests he did after that only confirmed what he already knew. If he could diagnose cancer this way, psychiatric problems are even easier to detect, especially if the information you are looking for is how a person affects the public. Mr. Trump is a very straightforward case. We know that his White House doctor didn’t include a psychiatrist among his “11 different Board certified specialists,” because any trainee would have spotted right away that he is severely compromised.

Raw Story: You are organizing a conference of mental health professionals for next week. What’s the theme, and how did it come about?

The title of the conference is, “The Dangerous State of the World and the Need for Fit Leadership.” Exactly a week from today, in Washington, we will be holding a major interdisciplinary conference with the nation’s top experts from multiple fields: mental health, law, history, political science, economics, social psychology, philosophy, nuclear science, and climate science. These experts will be coming together for the first time at this urgent time, to share their knowledge with one another and with the public. This is because clear analysis of a situation is the first step toward finding an informed and effective solution.

The technology and the extensive war-making powers that are available to our president, in his unstable state, make this perhaps one of the most dangerous moments in the history of our nation and the world. Just when a correct appraisal is most urgent, expert voices are all but lacking in public discourse.

The group organizing the conference is the World Mental Health Coalition, an organization of mental health experts who are seeking to eliminate the problem of dangerous disorders in leadership by offering fitness-for-duty exams for all presidential and vice-presidential candidates. We are also recommending that all nations where the leader controls weapons of mass destruction do the same.

We had long been warning that psychological dangerousness in the office of the presidency would soon translate into social, cultural, and geopolitical dangerousness, and that is happening now. We have to join forces to figure out what we can do, since no one field can contain it now—not even politics can handle it, apparently. The Finnish reporter who contacted me said: “One person being deranged is understandable. We see this from time to time. What is frightening are the millions and tens of millions of people who believe this is just wonderful.” Outside observations are helpful when we start to lose our own ground.

Attendees can register online through dangerouscase.org.

By Tana Geneva

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