New York Times —January 6, 2018 by Michael Tackett; Peter Baker contributed reporting
WASHINGTON — President Trump, in an extraordinary defense of his mental capacity and fitness for office, described himself on Saturday as a “genius” and “a very stable genius at that.”
In a series of Twitter messages that seemed to respond to revelations in a new book, Mr. Trump defended himself by charting his rise to the presidency, saying one of his chief assets throughout his life was “being, like, really smart.”
Even for a president who has shattered many of the conventions of the office, Mr. Trump’s response to the criticisms in the book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” by Michael Wolff, stood out. The book includes depictions by top White House staff members painting Mr. Trump as an uninformed and at times erratic president.
By taking on the issue so directly, the president ensures that the discussion of his capacity will only intensify. He is set to undergo a physical examination this coming week, but those tests for presidents do not generally involve mental acuity.
Mr. Trump is at Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland, this weekend, meeting with Republican leaders, cabinet officials and top aides to discuss the agenda for 2018.
The long-simmering argument about the president’s state of mind has roiled the political and psychiatric worlds and thrust the country into uncharted territory. Democrats in Congress have introduced legislation to force the president to submit to psychological evaluation. Mental health professionals have signed a petition calling for his removal from office.
What it comes down to is an effort to understand and explain a president who acts so differently from every other person to have held his office. Mr. Trump’s self-absorption, impulsiveness, lack of empathy, obsessive focus on slights, tenuous grasp of facts and penchant for sometimes far-fetched conspiracy theories have invited armchair diagnoses and generated endless commentary.
“The level of concern by the public is now enormous,” said Bandy X. Lee, a forensic psychiatrist at the Yale School of Medicine and the editor of “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President,” a book released last fall. “They’re telling us to speak more loudly and clearly and not to stop until something is done because they are terrified.”
As Politico first reported, Dr. Lee was invited to Capitol Hill last month to meet with about a dozen members of Congress to discuss the matter, and she has more meetings scheduled. All but one of the lawmakers she briefed are Democrats. While some Republicans have raised concerns, they do so mostly in private, and others scoff at the question, dismissing it as partisan politics.
Still, in private, advisers to the president have at times expressed their own concerns. In conversations over the past year, people who were new to Mr. Trump in the White House — which was most of the West Wing staff — have tried to process the president’s speaking style, his temper, his lack of interest in formal briefings, his obsession with physical appearances and his concern about the theatrics and excitement of his job.
In conversations with friends, Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, has often described Mr. Trump as “crazy, but he’s a genius.”
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