US President Donald Trump’s decision to fight claims about his state of mind by claiming to be a “genius” has sparked growing debate about the constitutional provision that allows him to be removed from office due to mental incapacity.
Amid increased speculation about his mental acuity in recent days, Mr Trump hit back at his critics at the weekend, tweeting that he was in fact a “genius … and a very stable genius at that!”
The three tweets, posted in response to the shockwaves caused by the release of Michael Wolff’s book Fire and Fury, followed another eyebrow-raising post last week in which the President boasted about his “Nuclear Button”.
….Actually, throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart. Crooked Hillary Clinton also played these cards very hard and, as everyone knows, went down in flames. I went from VERY successful businessman, to top T.V. Star…..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 6, 2018
Explaining his tweets in a subsequent news conference, Mr Trump said he had entered the debate about his mental fitness because he “went to the best colleges”, was an “excellent student” and had gone on to become “one of the top business people”.
Addressing Mr Wolff’s book, Mr Trump also slammed the country’s defamation laws, saying it was a “disgrace that he can do something like this”.
The 25th Amendment
The President’s combative responses have placed increased focus on the 25th Amendment, which has become “Washington’s growing obsession”, according to the influential American political news magazine Politico.
North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the “Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.” Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 3, 2018
Passed after the assassination of John F Kennedy, the 25th Amendment allows the president to be removed from office if the vice president and a majority of the Cabinet or of the Congress deem him “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office”.
The provision has only ever been used with presidential consent to allow vice presidents to briefly take on the president’s powers while Ronald Reagan and George W Bush underwent medical procedures.
According to Mr Wolff, Mr Trump’s former chief adviser Steve Bannon has suggested the President has “lost it” and could be removed under the 25th Amendment.
Democratic politicians have begun to explore the possibility that Mr Trump could be removed under the 25th Amendment.
Last month, Yale University psychiatry professor Dr Bandy Lee was summoned to Capitol Hill to brief more than a dozen members of Congress, including one Republican, about Mr Trump’s mental capacity.
Meanwhile, 57 House Democrats – of the 435-person body – have backed a bill to form an oversight commission on presidential capacity.
Dr Lee, the editor of The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, in which 27 psychiatrists and mental health experts evaluate the “dangerousness” of the President, warned Mr Trump’s actions suggested he “was going to unravel”.
Some conservatives, including Bill Kristol, editor-at-large of the conservative magazine The Weekly Standard, and former president George W Bush’s ethics lawyer Richard Painter, have also begun floating the possible use of the 25th Amendment.
Most of @POTUS's craziness seems so far to have been confined to speech not deeds. But I trust @VP has asked his Counsel to prepare a draft document transferring power in accord with Sec. 4 of 25th Amendment in case it's suddenly needed, & that he's discussed this with COS Kelly.
— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) January 3, 2018
Mr Wolff’s book includes two anecdotes that have been seized on by those questioning Mr Trump’s mental capacity: that he has begun to repeat the same three stories every 10 minutes or so, and that he failed to recognise a succession of old friends at his Florida resort Mar-A-Lago.
Last month, a New York Times report claimed the President was now telling aides the infamous ‘Access Hollywood’ tape was fake, while speculation about possible dementia was also rife after the President struggled to drink a glass of water during a national security speech last month.
Trump adviser kicked off CNN
The fallout from the book’s publication, brought forward to Friday after Trump threatened legal action, continued on Sunday with a senior aide hitting out on CNN.
Senior policy adviser Stephen Miller told Jake Tapper that Fire and Fury was a “grotesque work of fiction”, accusing the network of “anti-Trump hysterical coverage”.
“The reality is that the President is a political genius,” Mr Miller said while accusing Mr Tapper of being “condescending” and “snide”.
“I have no idea why you’re attacking me,” Mr Tapper responded, saying Mr Miller was being “obsequious” and asking him to “calm down” before cutting the interview short.
“I think we have wasted enough of my viewers’ time,” Mr Tapper said, ending the interview.
As well as infuriating the White House, the conversation about Mr Trump’s mental health is also considered controversial in psychiatry circles.
Under the ‘Goldwater rule’, members of the American Psychiatry Association are barred from diagnosing public figures they have not personally evaluated.
The rule is named after former Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater, who was deemed publicly psychologically unfit to be commander-in-chief by doctors who had never personally evaluated him.
Breaking the convention is considered “irresponsible, potentially stigmatising, and definitely unethical”.
Mr Trump will undergo a routine annual medical examination by his physician, Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson, on January 12.
In his tweets, Mr Trump suggested he was a victim of similar attacks to those faced by former Republican president Ronald Reagan, who some have suggested suffered from Alzheimer’s while serving as president.
Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.
US Constitution, 25th Amendment, section four