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Friday, December 8, 2023

In May 2017 FBI was troubled by president’s actions, behavior


Update Feb. 18, 2019: The 60 Minutes interview video and transcript

In this clip of outtakes, McCabe reveals a self-aggrandizing Donald Trump 

McCabe said Rosenstein raised the idea of using the 25th Amendment to remove Trump out of concern about the president’s “capacity and about his intent at that point in time.”

The key words, above, from a mental health perspective, are “capacity” and from the concern over President Trump’s loyalty, “intent.”

For once I agree with Lindsay Graham (on CBS “Face the Nation”):

Graham called the idea of invoking the 25th Amendment “beyond stunning.”

Indeed, the very idea that Trump’s psychological impairment might justify removal from office is beyond stunning. That there was evidence being taken seriously by experienced intelligence experts to ponder taking such a step is staggering and mind-boggling.

Then, there’s this:

Trump insisted intelligence reports that North Korea had launched an ICBM were incorrect because Putin had told him that North Korea did not have that capability, the book says, per The Washington Post.

The most innocent explanation of this is that Trump does not have the judgment to think rationally about an issue vital to national security, that he took the word of the leader of a nation which is an adversary over his own intelligence experts. Is it any wonder that those aware of this were considering invoking the 25th Amendment because of mental incapacity?

Jeremy Bash, former chief of staff for the Defense Department and the CIA under Barack Obama told Michelle Wallace on MSNBC today: “Think about this, Putin says to an American president, ’I don’t want you to take seriously the threat of an ICBM from North Korea.’” He said that Putin’s motives would be to “undermine U.S. intelligence. More  fundamentally, the Russian Federation has had a long-standing agenda to stop the United States from building national missile defenses because those defenses could defend our territory from Russian ICBMs.” He said that Trump heeding Putin’s advice represents a “very dangerous situation.”

Update: Feb. 19, 2019

Former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe said he briefed a bipartisan group of congressional leaders about the FBI’s counterintelligence operation into President Donald Trump in May 2017, and that none of them objected. “No one objected — not on legal grounds, not on constitutional grounds, and not based on the facts,” he said Tuesday in an interview on NBC’s “Today,” ahead of the release of his book about his time at the FBI under Trump. (Emphasis added)

Feb. 16, 2019

A few months after mental health professionals said Trump was dangerously mentally unfit in the Spring of 2017, FBI Director Comey was fired, and Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe engaged in discussions about whether there was justification in invoking the 25th Amendment. To reiterate what you’ve no doubt already heard:

“There’s some dispute about whether invoking the 25th Amendment was discussed seriously. But there’s no question that at the FBI — which, let’s not forget, may be the most politically conservative agency in the entire federal government — what happened during the campaign, as well as Trump’s own actions after becoming president, was so alarming that extraordinary measures to safeguard the U.S. government seemed like something that had to be considered.” (Washington Post)

It is important to understand that the notion that the president appeared to be mentally unbalanced and therefore not able to think rationally and that when criticized he often reacted with rage did not come just from the observations which James Comey, Andrew McCabe, and others in the intelligence community had made.

Pundits were reluctant to use psychiatric jargon to describe Trump’s troubling behavior. Instead, they readily used words like “unhinged” and “mercurial” or even “off the rails,” as if there was some normalcy to a president being described using these words. It was as if nobody bothered to look the definitions up: for the words: “mentally unbalanced; deranged” for the former and for the later “a person subject to sudden or unpredictable changes of mood or mind.”  Trump has been repeatedly described as someone whose narcissism and insecurity led him to make irrational and self-defeating decisions. This, again, is part and parcel of one definition of mental illness.

We may never know whether these top intelligence officials knew about the thousands of mental health professionals who were making their case that Trump suffered from psychopathology so severe that he was, to paraphrase a best-selling book’s title (review), a dangerous case. Even though the book “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump” was published several months later, a few months before the Comey firing mental health professionals began to publish articles or write letters to newspapers stating why they believe the president was mentally unfit. A month prior to the Comey firing a well-publicized conference was held at a Yale University venue (not sponsored by Yale).

We also may never know whether these intelligence officials consulted with clinicians working as profilers within the FBI and/or outside mental health expert consultants to help them understand the behavior of the president which gave them concern. My hunch is that any responsible intelligence officer would make every effort to essentially profile someone whose behavior didn’t seem, to use a layman’s term, “normal.”

Andrew McCabe is beginning his book tour and may be called to testify before Congress. In addition to grave worry within the FBI about Trump being mentally unfit to be president, once the book is published I am certain we will learn more about how deeply troubled members of the intelligence community were by the many indications that he had been compromised by Vladimir Putin. If this was wittingly it would make him a traitor. If it was unwittingly it would strongly suggest mental illness severe enough for him to be judged unfit to be president. These two are not mutually exclusive. He could be both, in other words:

All of the behaviors that have had pundits scratching their heads as they attempt to make sense of them can be explained by one or both of two things: He is a malignant narcissist or he is working to advance the interests of Russian president Putin.

On a lesser note, Jeff Sessions doesn’t come across well in McCabe’s account of interactions he had with the then attorney general. Here’s an excerpt from an article, well worth reading in its entirety, from The Hill: Sessions once said FBI was better off when it ‘only hired Irishmen’

Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe alleged that former Attorney General Jeff Sessions once said the bureau was better off when it “only hired Irishmen,” according to a copy of his new book seen by The Washington Post.

“They were drunks but they could be trusted. Not like all those new people with nose rings and tattoos — who knows what they’re doing?” McCabe reportedly quoted Sessions as saying in his new book while recounting what it was like to work under him.

McCabe also reportedly claimed that Sessions would forgo reading intelligence reports during his time as a senior official in the Trump administration and confused classified information with stories he had read in the newspaper.

Related column from Feb. 15, 2019: “25th Amendment: No Perry Mason moment from Pence”


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