Dr. John Gartner: "Donald Trump is the most successful bio-terrorist in human history"

Psychologist and former Johns Hopkins professor on Trump's pandemic conduct: "He is a first-degree mass murderer"

By Chauncey DeVega

Senior Writer

Published July 13, 2020 7:00AM (EDT)

Donald Trump and the novel Coronavirus (Getty Images/Salon)
Donald Trump and the novel Coronavirus (Getty Images/Salon)

The June 6 edition of the German newsweekly Der Spiegel described Donald Trump as a "fire devil" and a president who "sets fire to his country."

The English edition of Der Spiegel continues with this damningly accurate description of America in the Age of Trump:

Should we be worried about the United States? Is a fundamental shift taking place in a country that is synonymous with deeply rooted democracy? The current chaos on the streets of America isn't just the product of the country's economic and societal tensions. The president himself has repeatedly exacerbated those conflicts with his rhetoric. Trump, it seems, needs the chaos. He feeds off it.

Every day he is in office, the political pyromaniac Donald Trump continues to burn the rule of law and democracy.

He has shown himself to be the most corrupt president in the history of the United States. The most recent example of Trump's unlimited perfidy: last Friday, in a naked quid pro quo, Donald Trump commuted the sentence of his longtime confidant and adviser Roger Stone as a way of insulating himself from any future charges related to the Russia scandal or other criminal matters.

Aided by Trump and his agents' willful malevolence, negligence and cruelty, the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread across the United States. The country continues its slide towards a second Great Depression.

More than 135,000 Americans have now been killed by the coronavirus. Public health experts predict that hundreds of thousands or more may die unless the Trump administration and Republican governors in states such as Florida and Texas radically alter their public health policies by mandating that masks be worn in public. In some places, lockdowns may need to be reinstated.

Instead, the Trump administration and its allies have decided that more people — including public school students, their teachers and their families — should fall ill and die as a means of creating a new "normal" where the disease is no longer viewed as an emergency. The evident goal is to sacrifice human beings for "capitalism" and "the economy" in order to salvage Donald Trump's re-election chances. This is the "economics of barbarism" in practice.

In total, the United States in the Age of Trump and the coronavirus pandemic is a global pariah.

Writing at Medium, Indi Samarajiva summarizes this pathetic and pitiful situation:

America is not united anymore and it's barely a state. They have crashed right through failed state into a plague state, unwelcome across the world…. In the absence of a humane government, America is now ruled by COVID-19. Welcome to the Plague States of America.

Ultimately, Donald Trump's fascism, his apparent mental pathologies, and his sabotaged response to the coronavirus are not discrete and separate things. Rather, they are all connected.  

Dr. John Gartner, whom I have interviewed on several previous occasions, is a psychologist, psychoanalyst and former professor at the Johns Hopkins University Medical School. Gartner is also the founder of Duty to Warn, an organization working to raise awareness about the danger to the United States and the world posed by Donald Trump. Gartner is a contributor to the 2017 bestseller "The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President" and is featured in the upcoming documentary "Unfit: The Psychology of Donald Trump."

In our latest conversation, Gartner warns that Donald Trump is actively using the coronavirus pandemic as a type of biological weapon against the American people. Gartner also explains how Donald Trump, like other malignant narcissists who attain great power, is willing to hurt and even kill his own followers as a way of satisfying his personal sadism and need for narcissistic energy.

Gartner also explains that Donald Trump's supporters are members of a political death cult in which not wearing a mask and refusing other rational measures to stop the coronavirus pandemic are acts of loyalty and love to their personal savior and Great Leader.

You can also listen to my conversation with Dr. John Gartner on my podcast "The Truth Report" or through the player embedded below.

This conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

Trump is surrounded by a maelstrom of events. John Bolton's new book has shown Trump to be dangerously incompetent and a threat to the safety of the American people and the world. Trump's niece's new book shows him to be mentally unwell, evil and cruel to his own family members. The Supreme Court just ruled that Trump's taxes and other financial records must be handed over to prosecutors. Public opinion polls and other metrics show him losing to Joe Biden in a landslide. The George Floyd protests continue across the country. How are you making sense of Trump's mood and mind in this moment?

Because of his extreme malignant narcissism, Donald Trump can and should be compared to leaders such as Adolf Hitler. At this point, the country is really at the endgame with Trump — we are getting closer and closer to the bunker moment. Donald Trump is not just incompetent. He's not just delusional. He is not just narcissistic and doesn't care about others. Donald Trump's behavior with the coronavirus pandemic is intentional. He is malevolent. He is a first-degree mass murderer. This is a plan.

I am a great believer in the principle of Occam's razor. The simplest explanation is usually the right one. Trump disbanded the pandemic task force. First, Trump said that the virus was not going to come to America. Then he chose not to do more testing. Trump chose to not use the Defense Production Act to make more needed medical supplies and equipment.

Trump has admitted to trying to slow down the testing for the coronavirus. Trump has undermined the governors' efforts to protect the public from the virus. Trump even went so far as to encourage astroturf protests to intimidate Democratic governors into reopening for "the economy." Trump has said that he is against people wearing masks — which is the simplest, cheapest and most efficient way to keep us from spreading the virus.

Trump is trying to open the floodgates. He's hosting mass gatherings of people at his rallies and other events. He's doing everything he can to enable the virus.

Donald Trump, the president of the United States, is going to be the most successful bio-terrorist in human history. Let me repeat myself so there is no confusion. Donald Trump is the most successful bio-terrorist in human history. This is not an accident.

Let me ask the most basic forensic questions: Why? And how?

Trump's behavior is a function of the psychology of a malignant narcissist. If you look at the history of malignant narcissists, whether its Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot or Saddam Hussein, there is something they all have in common. They all kill massive numbers of their own people.  

Consider the example of Adolf Hitler. At a certain point everybody knew, including his generals, that Germany had lost the war. But Hitler fought on and hundreds of thousands of more Germans died. Hitler knew the war was lost and that he would end up committing suicide to avoid capture, trial and execution.

Hitler issued an order that's called the Nero Decree. Albert Speer, Hitler's minister of armaments and war production, was supposed to destroy every German factory, every German farm, every German bridge, every German power plant, rail line, dams, utilities, docks, mines, everything that could allow the German people to survive. Speer pointed out to Hitler, "The German people won't survive if you basically bomb our own people down to the Stone Age."

Hitler supposedly responded with, "We don't need to worry about their survival, because all the good Germans are already dead." In other words, you make me great, or I will murder you. That is the guiding proposition for a malignant narcissist. Do not forget that one of the components of malignant narcissism is sadism. Omnipotent destruction makes malignant narcissists feel powerful. This is especially true if they feel somehow disempowered or otherwise weak.

Trump leads a political death cult. Not wearing a mask during the coronavirus pandemic has become an important symbol of personal loyalty.

Suicidal self-destructive behavior as a sign of loyalty to the Great Leader is a tradition among malignant narcissists. Leaders such as Trump are so unwell that if the people around them and their followers are not stoking their egos then a Trump-type person will turn their rage outward.

To the extent that they are not feeling great enough about themselves, they need someone to punish. One of the ways that a Trump or Hitler-type leader does that is to try to make people show loyalty by doing things where they knowingly harm themselves.

The idea that one would lead your own followers to their deaths is not unusual in the broader context of history. This is how malignant narcissists work. But as Americans, we literally cannot wrap our minds around such a thing. Of course, the American news media is also unable to accept such a reality, that there are leaders who would actively hurt their own followers and others.

The implication of your argument is that Trump's followers who refuse to wear masks are a type of biological weapon. As human bio-weapons Donald Trump's followers can then use the virus to kill their personal enemies, and anyone else they or Trump have targeted.

In that way, Trump's use of the coronavirus is almost like a vampire who turns people into monsters who then kill and attack other people. Trump is actually making his followers into bio-weapons. There is a narrative that Donald Trump is crazy, delusional, selfish, and cognitively disabled. Of course, that is true. But Donald Trump is not so stupid that he does not know the consequences of not wearing masks at a large gathering of people. Trump knows what the effect of that will be. Trump has been briefed repeatedly about how not wearing masks will lead to mass death. He knows that. Trump has consciousness of guilt. He understands the cause-and-effect relationship between his behavior and all the people who are dying in this country from the coronavirus pandemic.

Donald Trump and the Republicans are willing to sacrifice the lives of Americans to the coronavirus in order to save "capitalism" — and of course Trump's reelection chances. This is grotesquely evil behavior. The next step in this ghoulish plan is to force America's schools to reopen in the fall knowing full well that this will kill children, teachers and parents. This is all part of a strategy where the goal is to make the American people numb to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people from the pandemic. Help me understand Trump's mind. How can he rationalize potentially sacrificing children to this death cult? Doesn't he have some internal ethical governor that says this is too far?

It's very hard for relatively normal and mentally healthy people to truly understand how Donald Trump's mind works, to empathize with his thought processes, because it is hard to empathize with someone who truly does not care if he's killing massive numbers of children. Such an outcome does not upset Donald Trump. He is more upset by some idle comment made on Fox News. The deaths of children and other people do not have any emotional meaning to him.

It is also very hard for most people to understand how there's a sinister way in which harming, degrading, destroying and, yes, even killing large numbers of people actually excites and arouses Donald Trump. It all makes him feel powerful. That excitement and arousal and empowerment is an antidote to the emptiness that he feels inside and to the humiliation and mockery that he is experiencing from his critics and the public.

When the Secret Service forced Donald Trump into the White House bunker several weeks ago during the George Floyd protests, how did his mind respond?

It makes Trump worse. This is one of the things where I worry a little bit about the glee that his critics and opposition take in upsetting him. What happens when you stir the hornet's nest? Trump is going to hurt a lot of people, and hurt them very badly.

It is not an accident that when Trump was forced into the White House bunker he ordered the protesters outside to be gassed and attacked. That was Trump's reaction to being made to feel weak by going into the bunker for his protection. Trump's reaction to feeling weak during the George Floyd protests was to invoke the power of the military and martial law in an attempt to declare war on the American people. This is a clear cause-and-effect dynamic. The more humiliated and out of control Donald Trump feels, the more violently and powerfully he feels he needs to strike back.

Donald Trump has been on an emotional roller coaster. He was rebuked and embarrassed in Tulsa. Then he went to a rally at one of his churches in Arizona where he was praised as the second coming of God. Trump then had a truly vainglorious Independence Day rally and other events. But Trump is still losing badly to Joe Biden in early polling. He is addicted to narcissistic fuel and energy. How does his mind process these ups and downs?

Yes, Donald Trump is addicted to his supply of narcissistic energy and fuel. These rallies are his high. He is addicted to them and the feelings of praise and adulation he gets from his followers. But the flip side to that for Trump is that if he is not made to feel great by his followers and rallies, then he will simply find another way to get pleasure. Trump does that by killing, harming and degrading others. In other words, Trump's mind works in the following way: "I get my narcissistic supplies by your praising me. I can get them by hurting you as well. That'll make me feel good too." Trump chooses to hurt the American people.

What is your analysis of Trump's rally at Mount Rushmore?

He did everything to feel aggrandized and powerful. In his mind, he could see his face on Mount Rushmore. Trump needs the crowds. He needs them close together, he needs them praising him. Trump had military jets flying overhead and all his supporters singing his praises. But what was Trump's message for Independence Day? All the people who do not praise me are bad. They're evil. They're left-wing troublemakers. All those people who don't praise me want to destroy this country and that is not going to happen under my watch because we are going to get them first. Donald Trump takes a perverse pleasure in destruction — and that destruction is the destruction of the American people, the country, our way of life, our actual lives themselves. Donald Trump is reveling in our destruction and our deaths.

During his two Independence Day weekend speeches, Donald Trump declared that anyone who does not support him is an enemy of America who should be destroyed. Trump is not kidding. He is not making a "harmless joke." He is deadly serious. Why are so many Americans still in denial about this reality? At this late date, is it even possible to awaken them to the truth?

It is a defense mechanism. Trump always telegraphs every terrible thing he is ever going to do, and then he does it, and then most people are always shocked. And then the next time Trump says he is going to do something terrible the same people think that it is somehow going to not happen.

Such reactions are a defense mechanism because most people cannot imagine that Donald Trump, the president of the United States, is as evil and destructive and out of control as he truly is. Trump is going to take his behavior all the way to the end. His dangers are not just with the coronavirus but with how there will not be a peaceful transition of power if he loses the 2020 election.

Here is an observation: Trump is going to find a way to steal the 2020 election. And even if defeated at the polls, he still has two months between Election Day and supposedly stepping down in January. These months up to Election Day and then to January will be some of the most dangerous in the country's history. Trump is capable of anything.

I agree. The American people and the world really need to understand that we are heading towards the endgame with Donald Trump. This moment is extremely dangerous because Trump is wounded, rejected and feeling devalued. Trump is going to be a loser and probably go to jail if he is not re-elected. Trump is going to take everyone down with him. But Trump also has enablers in place throughout the government to protect him. This is all very dangerous.

As with drug addicts, is Donald Trump capable of hitting "rock bottom" and then having a moment of clarity where he recants and then changes his behavior?

Again, look at the last days of Hitler. He was losing his mind towards the end, but he was still giving orders and people were still following them. We do not know what crazy orders Donald Trump is going to give and we do not know who will follow them. But whatever Trump does it will be destructive, and he will have followers willing to do what he commands. In the end Donald Trump will have the full force of the executive branch trying to rig and invalidate the 2020 election in his favor.

By Chauncey DeVega

Chauncey DeVega is a senior politics writer for Salon. His essays can also be found at He also hosts a weekly podcast, The Chauncey DeVega Show. Chauncey can be followed on Twitter and Facebook.

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