On Wednesday, former Special Counsel Robert Mueller delivered remarks about his report. Notably, Mueller refrained from absolving President Donald Trump of wrongdoing. He also emphatically stated that Russia had interfered in the U.S. election, which the White House denies.
Raw Story spoke with Dr. Bandy X. Lee, a renowned expert on violence and forensic psychiatrist at Yale School of Medicine. She has been a consultant to the World Health Organization since 2002 and is author of the authoritative textbook, “Violence: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Causes, Consequences, and Cures.” She is also the president of the World Mental Health Coalition and editor of the New York Times bestseller, “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 37 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President” (dangerouscase.org).
Raw Story: One of the more notable parts of the presser was when Mueller emphasized foreign interference in the U.S. election, which President Trump has yet to explicitly admit. Why is the President in denial?
Last week, after giving the president three weeks to agree to a personal interview, which he did not do, we proceeded to draw a conclusion that the president failed every criterion of mental capacity for rational decision making. It was based on our earlier mental health analysis of the Mueller report. The fact that he would not agree to undergo a valid mental health evaluation, despite repeated encouragement, is also confirmation of the results of our assessment.
Our conclusion about his lack of capacity for rational thinking is based precisely on this inability to take in important facts and evidence—this is one of the criteria—whether because of his intense emotional needs or wishful thinking for a different reality. This would fit in exactly with his denial about Russian interference in the U.S. election. He simply cannot face the possibility that even his barely-won Electoral College victory, at still a large loss of the popular vote, would not be valid.
Raw Story: So, the President’s denial of election interference means that he hasn't taken measures against Vladimir Putin, the likely agent of interference, drawing criticisms that Trump is drawn to authoritarian leaders. Why?
There are many reasons, of course, but the central point is that this again comes back to his inability to stay with reason and reality. This includes an inability to process information properly without lying to himself and others, without rigidity, without preoccupation with his external image, and many other factors. He also cannot make sound decisions, being easily swayed by impulse, recklessness, and inability to consider consequences. Because the results of his decision-making will often be poor, such as his tariff wars with China or negotiations with North Korea, for example, he will also be prone to respond with lying, distortions, and then eventually bullying and violence if he does not get the approval he craves—that is why we have often seen him encouraging, recommending, or inciting violence on the part of his followers.
There are many consequences of having a commander-in-chief without basic mental capacity: it is like having a captain who is asleep at the wheel, and this is very dangerous in the nuclear age. Second, the mind has many layers, and a cognitively impaired leader may compensate with superb skills at the more malignant, “primitive“ levels that mobilize the irrational fears of the population more effectively. Third, the president’s mental weaknesses become an opportunity for all manner of extreme policies and agendas to have a chance of passing in ways that would not be possible under a normal presidency. Fourth, hostile nations will understand the president’s psychological weaknesses far before we do and work him to their advantage at our nation’s expense. We know that Russia is already doing it—so much so that Donald Trump acts in every way like a Russian agent and an American adversary, refusing to guard against a nation that attacked us.
You mention authoritarian personality, which is actually stunted development and a pathology; one pretends to be strong but is actually submissive. Knowing how to “turn on“ this weakness, you can transform someone into your puppet, and you do not need any kompromat to do it.
All these are reasons why the lack of mental capacity in the president is a national emergency. As almost a thousand former federal prosecutors who have come forth with an opinion that Mr. Trump would have been charged if he were not president, hundreds of mental health professionals have already endorsed our assessment (https://dangerouscase.org/action_needed/). I hope that any mental health professional who reads our interview will join us as well.
Raw Story: Mueller explicitly refused to exonerate Trump on the issue of obstruction. How do you suppose Trump will react?
Already, he has shown that he is incapable of taking in information or facts that do not comport with his internal view of himself, and he is capable even of violent rage reactions if one persists. After a while, if his version of “reality“ does not prevail, or unwanted facts start encroaching on him, inciting civil war or waging war against Iran would not be inconceivable. In fact, that would be the natural next step.
Raw Story: What impact do you think it'll have on his followers? Why?
Currently, Mr. Trump has turned his followers into a personality cult, which will believe whatever he says over all evidence, and so they will simply amplify his impairments. He himself told them: “What you are seeing and what you are reading is not what’s happening.“
It is important to note that fascism is not a political ideology or strategy but mental pathology at societal scale, starting with an impaired leader who attains power not to lead but to fulfill his own dysfunctional needs. Of course, such a leader is attractive in the first place because of similar pathologies in the population, which global economic inequities and massive social injustices in our day could have predicted. Since such a leader does not have any real ability to lead, he manipulates the psychological weaknesses in the population, augmenting societal disorder until the dynamic brings down the entire society. Destruction is always the inevitable result, as it is the nature of pathology, as opposed to healthy choices.