Mental Competence Questions

In honor of the presidential press conference today that several media sites have labeled a “meltdown”, I am posting this brief note.

What follows is a list of seven articles from different sources, more or less randomly selected, having something to do with the mental health and/or competence of POTUS 45. I have thought for a long time – even well before the primaries – there is reason to be concerned about his capacity to function rationally, and therefore he is not fit to serve. These more recent writings are only confirming my own, admittedly NON-mental-health-expert, opinion.

Unfortunately the world, not only the country, is at high risk as a result.

The articles are listed alphabetically by source:

 

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Anything But Quiet

This is day six since the last posting of any presidential action on the White House website. In some respects, it was inevitable the orders, memoranda, etc. were going to appear less frequently, but this is a precipitous drop for this president. Could it be the president is otherwise occupied (distracted)?

I don’t intend to write about every sordid detail of this administrations’ bungling activities, so will simply mention the firing of Michael Flynn, now former National Security Advisor, and today’s news of the nominee for Secretary of Labor, Andrew Puzder, withdrawing his name from consideration under fire from an increasing number of Republicans, as examples of the incompetence, corruption, and floundering of this administration. These are just two very recent examples of the chaos that has ensued. Today’s Non Sequitur comic by Wiley Miller seems particularly appropriate. Funny, but not funny.

Because the past few weeks have been such a disaster and it promises to get worse not better, I’ve decided to expand the topics of focus for this blog, at least for a while. In addition to writing about presidential executive actions (and in some cases consequences of them such as court cases) and a few of my own comments/observations/opinions, I intend to follow two threads of media attention that appear to be growing public concerns, or at least increasing in news coverage by many media outlets. One is the mental health or mental competence of the president. The other is the numerous calls for accountability of the president or calls for outright impeachment. Neither of these are new. In fact, both have been present in the press at least since the election, but there does seem to be greater frequency of stories being written or produced on these two topics.

While at this point much of this is speculation, ultimately either situation could lead to removal from office. The Constitution does allow for removal for incompetence, presumably including mental incompetence. The Constitution also has two Emoluments clauses that could be used to impeach the president.

In a future post, I will address some of what I have read and am following regarding the president’s mental health. It is an active topic with a number of mental health professionals taking public positions in spite of the long followed “Goldwater Rule” that basically prohibits such professionals from diagnosing anyone, particularly a public figure, without actually interviewing them personally.

Today, on the emoluments issue, I will point to an interesting article by Judd Legum of Think Progress on how POTUS 45 can be held accountable for violating the Constitution without the help of the Republican Congress that is currently a major road block. The gist of the article is a report on potential legal actions that could be taken by a state’s Attorney General. What the article points out is that public official has a much better case for proving “standing” as required by law than a private individual or corporation would. Legum also suggests the state of New York might be the ideal place for this to get done. Washington, D. C. might also be a likely success location.

I do not expect the Congress to do anything about this president’s myriad conflicts of interest anytime soon, so will be watching to see if any Attorney General decides to act on behalf of the people.

 

Providing an Order of Succession Within the Department of Justice

I find this order both routine and curiously interesting. It rescinds an order signed by President Obama less than a month previous (January 13, 2017.) As best I can tell, only two changes are made and they are in the U. S. States Attorneys listed in order of succession.

Obama’s order lists them in this order:

(a) United States Attorney for the District of Columbia;

(b) United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; and

(c) United States Attorney for the Central District of California.

POTUS 45 has the same one as (b) but replaces the other two as follows:

(a)  United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia;

(b)  United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; and

(c)  United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri.

Not knowing anything about these particular attorneys, I don’t know what to make of this. It may well be the two additions are for some reason more preferable to this administration.

In practical application, because several Justice Department officers would all have to be dead or incapacitated simultaneously, the invoking of this – or any succession order – is such a remote possibility, it is probably not worth getting worked up about it.

Update

In a news report by USA Today, I learned a bit more about this order. It turns out I was wrong about how unlikely the succession list would be needed.  In fact, currently all of the offices other than the newly appointed Attorney General are vacant. So the reason for the change of succession was POTUS 45’s decision upon firing the Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, to name Dana Boente of the Eastern District of Virginia to replace her. Thus the need to elevate him to the top spot behind the Attorney General.

In addition, one minor correction: The order was reportedly signed Thursday, so I changed my note below from ‘signed’ to ‘posted’ for accuracy.

 

Executive Order posted February 9, 2017.

Presidential Executive Order on Enforcing Federal Law with Respect to Transnational Criminal Organizations and Preventing International Trafficking

As the title states, the order is aimed at transnational crime, especially drug trafficking. After reading it, I cannot see any reason for it being issued. As far as I can tell it does nothing more than is currently being done, creates no new task force, etc.

Either I am missing something (that may come back to haunt me later), or this is a “big splash” to send a message to his “base” that he is getting tough on international cartels.

Executive Order signed February 9, 2017.

Presidential Executive Order on Preventing Violence Against Federal, State, Tribal, and Local Law Enforcement Officers

There was a little more media coverage of this order than the previous, but it also has not been vetted very thoroughly by the press.

The primary gist of this order is supposedly protection of law enforcement officers. The only real remedy created by this order is:

(c)  pursue appropriate legislation, consistent with the Constitution’s regime of limited and enumerated Federal powers, that will define new Federal crimes, and increase penalties for existing Federal crimes, in order to prevent violence against Federal, State, tribal, and local law enforcement officers.

That alone is, however, enough to raise significant concern. So called “tough on crime” legislation has failed before and it is highly unlikely to work in the future.

Executive Order signed February 9, 2017.

Presidential Executive Order on a Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety

Yesterday, four executive orders were posted on the White House website. This is the earliest posting.

On the surface, this order seems mostly benign. It simply creates a task force to be appointed and managed by the Attorney General. Its focus is to reduce crime (particularly illegal immigration, drug trafficking, and violent crime) by gathering to share ideas, developing strategies, reviewing current law and recommending new legislation, and evaluating availability of crime-related data.

The task force is to be dissolved upon completion of its tasks as determined by the Attorney General.

While it appears reasonable, there is plenty of vagueness that could lead to abuse. One provision, the review and development of better crime data collection, is a worthy project and I hope it leads to better data and sharing by all law enforcement agencies.

Overall, I do not see the need for this to be done as an executive order. The power it gives the Attorney General, with regard to immigration law enforcement especially, is dangerous. Given the new AG’s past record, we have even more reason for concern.

Executive Order signed February 9, 2017.

9th Circuit Court Panel Order

Because the immigration executive order remains so prominently in the news, I’ve decided to follow the legal proceedings related to the order. A three judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court has now ruled on the case for removing the stay order issued by the Washington District court.

The 29-page order is one of the most readable court opinions I have read. It appears to me the judges made a concerted effort to write this order in as much common language as possible. I’m guessing one reason for that is they are well aware that many members of the general public are likely to be reading the full order itself and not just summary reports of it.

Not only is it reasonably accessible for non-legal experts, it is particularly strong in its rejection of all the significant arguments of the government and support of the arguments of the states. In some cases, the language seems to almost ridicule the weakness of the government’s arguments. I can’t help but think the work of the Justice Department was not its best due to so many experienced people no longer being present in the department.

Obviously, this court ruling is limited to the question of whether or not the stay issued by the Federal District Court of Western Washington should be lifted. The order is quite clear it is not deciding the case itself, but does see the states’ case as likely to succeed and the governments case is unlikely to succeed.

I fully agree with this ruling and hope ultimately the executive order is diminished so much that it is ineffective.

At this point, it remains to be seen whether or not the government will petition the full 9th Circuit Court (en banc) or the Supreme Court. If a petition is submitted to either, there is no guarantee that court will accept the case. Choosing not to appeal would mean returning to the District Court to present arguments, evidence, etc.

We have a long way to go on this issue before it is finally resolved.

A less egotistical president would simply withdraw the executive order and issue a new one that is much more carefully worded and vetted. I don’t recommend we hold our breath waiting for that to happen, however.