(Submitted on October 3, 2019, and October 15, 2019)
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To Members of Congress of the United States:
As mental health professionals, authors of The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, and members of the World Mental Health Coalition, we believe it is urgent to call attention to the danger the President may pose to the country as the impeachment investigation unfolds. While Congress’ more decisive action may create a sense of security, our perspective based on the President’s track record suggests otherwise. Already, the President has threatened the currently anonymous whistleblower and the Chair of the House Intelligence Committee. He has also retweeted a prediction of civil war should he be impeached.
None of us has clinically examined the President and therefore we refrain from making any diagnosis. However, our examination of his public record leads us to believe that he has the pattern of fragile sense of self and is prone to blame and attack others when threatened. The President has also shown himself willing to encourage violence against his perceived enemies.
The unfolding of an impeachment inquiry raises the specter of President Trump feeling threatened in ways he never has before. This sense of threat is likely to lead to an exacerbation of his attacks on perceived enemies and to increased encouragement of violence against them. This encouragement may lead to violent actions by others, such as we have seen over the last couple of years but highly exacerbated.
We also should not ignore the President’s ability to initiate a conflict with other countries in order to distract from his political troubles, perhaps with the hope of rallying the country around him, as often happens at the beginning of armed conflict. The fact that the President holds in his hands alone the ability to initiate nuclear war cannot be ignored.
We issue this letter to request that honorable lawmakers take these fears of increased violence seriously and plan accordingly. As mental health professionals, we have a professional obligation to use our knowledge and expertise to help individuals and groups avoid harm. Our ethical guidelines also encourage us “to serve society by advising and consulting with the executive, legislative, and judiciary branches of the government.”
Two things are urgent:
The impeachment hearings must proceed with all deliberate speed, and
If possible, Congress should reinforce existing laws that limit a president’s ability single-handedly to make war or launch military actions.