Democrats raise questions about Trump’s mental health

A growing number of Democrats are openly questioning President Trump’s mental health.

Rep. Earl BlumenauerEarl BlumenauerDemocrats raise questions about Trump’s mental health Dem launches panel to review presidential removal procedures 40 House Dems to urge Trump to suspend Flynn MORE (D-Ore.) in a floor speech this week called for a review of the Constitution's procedures for removing a president. He warned the 25th Amendment of the Constitution falls short when it comes to mental or emotional fitness for office.

Sen. Al FrankenAl FrankenPruitt confirmation sets stage for Trump EPA assault AT&T, Time Warner defend deal The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (D-Minn.) during a weekend interview with CNN’s “State of the Union” said that “a few” Republican colleagues have expressed concern to him about Trump's mental health.

And Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) plans to introduce legislation that would require the presence of a psychiatrist or psychologist in the White House.

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The Democrats justify their questions by pointing to Trump’s habit of making demonstrably false claims. At a press conference Thursday, he said he’d had the biggest Electoral College win since President Ronald Reagan, for example, when his margin was lower than either of President Obama’s wins.

Blumenauer told The Hill he started taking another look at the 25th Amendment because Trump had casually repeated easily disproven claims, such as stating that it wasn’t raining during his speech on Inauguration Day when it was.

“It’s not normal behavior. I don’t know anybody in a position of responsibility that doesn’t know if they’re being rained on. And nobody I work with serially offers up verifiably false statements on an ongoing basis,” he said in an interview steps from the House chamber.

But suggesting the president has a mental health problem invites criticism that Democrats are going too far.

“It’s divisive. The bottom line is, if Trump doesn’t succeed, we all fail. It’s time to give the guy a chance,” said Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.).

Reps. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) and Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) both burst out laughing when told some Democratic colleagues were questioning Trump’s mental health.

“Are you serious?” Hunter asked. “Yeah, I don’t care what they say.”

“I think that’s a stretch,” Simpson said.

The White House didn’t return a request for comment. 

Trump and his supporters promoted conspiracy theories during the presidential campaign about Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonTrump and Democrats must work together or face the wrath of voters Five big Trump narratives to watch NBC: Russia setting up dossier on Trump MORE’s health, proving that both parties will take shots when it comes to an opponent’s physical and mental health.

But mental health professionals say the politicization comes at a cost. Political actors suggesting an opponent has psychological problems risks stigmatizing people with actual mental illnesses, they say. 

“I think the politicization is troubling,” said Joshua Miller, a psychologist at the University of Georgia whose research focuses on pathological personality traits and personality disorders. “We certainly wouldn’t want individuals to use mental illness as a weapon to harm others.”

The American Psychiatric Association has long held it’s unethical for psychiatrists to give professional opinions about public figures they haven’t personally examined.

Yet in a sign of the polarized times, thousands of mental health professionals have signed a Change.org petition declaring Trump “is mentally ill and must be removed.”

Thirty-five psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers also signed a letter to The New York Times saying that “the grave emotional instability indicated by Mr. Trump’s speech and actions makes him incapable of serving safely as president.”

Lieu argued it's justifiable to scrutinize the mental health of anyone in control of the nation's nuclear codes.

“I think it is a legitimate issue to raise. I am not a mental health professional, so I don’t know in terms of any sort of medical expertise on this. But I do see and hear the same things that other people see and hear, and a lot of people have concluded that what’s going on is not normal. So what do I do with that as a member of Congress?” he told The Hill. 

“Anyone who can launch 4,000 nuclear weapons in minutes absolutely should be questioned on any matter related to their physical and mental health.”

Blumenauer is starting a working group, which he says at least a half-dozen colleagues have expressed interest in joining, to review the presidential removal procedures.

He also plans to introduce legislation that would empower former presidents and vice presidents to determine, in coordination with the sitting vice president, if the president is unfit for office.

The 25th Amendment currently says a majority of Cabinet members must make that decision with the vice president, which Blumenauer says isn’t enough if a mentally unsound president simply fires them all.

Asked if it’s appropriate for members of Congress to question the president’s mental health, Blumenauer replied: “All I’ve said is that this is strange behavior. It’s not normal in the circles I run in. And it raises questions. People can make their own diagnosis. I’m not.”

Simpson, the Republican congressman who initially laughed off the Democrats’ remarks, said it’s fair to question Trump’s judgment.

“Now, to question his judgment, that’s a different story,” Simpson said. “The behavior is somewhat disturbing."

He also said Trump’s false statements could end up hurting him at some point.

“The concern I have — how do I say this and still be respectful? Every presidency, no matter who it is, there’s going to come a point in the presidency where you’re going to have to go to the American people and get their support for something,” he said.  

“If this continues much longer, he’s going to lose the ability to rally those people.”