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House Democrats plan mental health panel to diagnose Trump in absentia

© Reuters / Ralph Orlowski

House Democrats are planning a meeting to showcase "concerns" about President Donald Trump's sanity from psychiatrists who've never examined him, doubling down on years of insistence that he is too crazy for the office.

Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Kentucky) is bringing a panel of psychiatrists to Washington in July for a "town hall" to weigh in on the president's mental health. While psychiatric associations strongly discourage their members from speculating on the sanity of patients they haven't personally examined, the event's leader, Yale School of Medicine's Dr. Bandy Lee, insists she's not actually diagnosing the president because anyone can tell he's crazy.

"The president's condition has been visibly deteriorating to the point where there's a lot of talk right now about his mental state beyond mental health professionals," Lee told the Washington Examiner. "It no longer takes a mental health professional to recognize the seriousness of the current presidency."

The town hall will tentatively include a highlight reel from a March event that featured 13 "experts" from the mental health, philosophy, journalism, and history fields opining on Trump's unfitness for command, Lee said. Every member of the House will be invited, and Congress, the media, and the public will have the opportunity to question her and other experts – though she hastened to add that they'd leave the question of whether to invoke the 25th Amendment or merely impeach Trump up to the Congress.

The anti-Trump #Resistance has fixated on his health from the beginning of his presidency, clinging to the 25th Amendment, which allows for the removal of a president whose cabinet has deemed him unfit to serve, as a possible silver bullet in case the dozens of probes and investigations underway don't succeed in dislodging him from the White House. Democrats have scrutinized his medical exams, obsessed over the slightest expansion of his waistline, and picked apart his tweets and public statements, seeing dementia behind every "covfefe" and "big red button" tweet. No doctor's clean bill of health is ever enough; a verdict of "insane," on the other hand, is accepted even in absentia.

Yarmuth defended Lee and her colleagues' long-distance diagnosis, insisting that "when they see patterns of behavior that are endangering people, that they have a professional obligation to go public and alert the people who are threatened, and in this case it's the American people."

Lee hopes to set up a "medical panel" that would evaluate not only Trump's mental capacity but that of the numerous Democratic presidential candidates. She co-authored a report urging the president to undergo a psychiatric evaluation after the conclusion of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation absolved Trump of charges he had conspired with the Russian government to steal the office; when he chose to ignore the psychiatrists, they declared him unfit for command, claiming he "lacks basic mental capacity for duties of office" and suggesting he be cut off from access to nuclear weapons and war-making capabilities. "This is really a national emergency," Lee declared.

Lee has been predicting the president's mental collapse for the better part of two years. "He's going to unravel, and we're seeing the signs," she warned Yarmuth and 12 other members of Congress in December 2017, two months after publishing "The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump" in collaboration with 27 other psychiatrists. Lee has stopped just short of calling for Trump to be involuntarily committed, acknowledging that restraining him against his will for the "urgent evaluation" he needs would "really look like a coup."

The American Psychiatric Association adopted the so-called "Goldwater Rule," forbidding members to give diagnostic opinions on public figures they had not actually examined, in 1964 after Senator and Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater sued the publishers of a magazine piece polling psychiatrists over their opinion of his fitness to be president.

Lee said she would reconsider holding the town hall if no Republicans expressed interest in attending.

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