The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump is a 2017 book edited by Bandy X. Lee, a forensic psychiatrist, containing essays from 27 psychiatrists, psychologists, and other mental health professionals describing the “clear and present danger” that U.S. President Donald Trump’s mental health poses to the “nation and individual well being.” Authors argue that the President’s mental health was affecting the mental health of the people of the United States and that he places the country at grave risk of involving it in a war, and of undermining democracy itself due to his dangerous pathology.

Consequently, the authors claim, Trump’s presidency represents an emergency which not only allows, but requires psychiatrists in the United States to raise alarms. While it has been repeatedly claimed that they have broken the American Psychiatric Association’s Goldwater rule — which states that it is unethical for psychiatrists to give professional opinions about public figures without examining them in person, — the authors maintain that pointing out danger and calling for an evaluation is different from diagnosis. They have criticized the American Psychiatric Association for changing professional norms and standards, stating that it is dangerous to turn reasonable ethical guidelines into a gag rule under political pressure.

The book was an instant New York Times Best Seller, and high demand led to a second edition, with 10 additional mental health professionals and some non-professionals (who are not counted in the “37”). Lee has maintained that the book remains strictly a public service, and all royalties were donated to the public good to remove any conflict of interest.

Various opinions

According to Jeannie Suk Gersen in The New Yorker, “A strange consensus does appear to be forming around Trump’s mental state,” including Democrats and Republicans who doubt Trump’s fitness for office.

In a blog post republished on Salon in September 2017, journalist Bill Moyers wrote that “[t]here will not be a book published this fall more urgent, important, or controversial than The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump.” In an interview with Robert Jay Lifton, Moyers said that Trump “makes increasingly bizarre statements that are contradicted by irrefutable evidence to the contrary.” Lifton said, “He doesn’t have clear contact with reality, though I’m not sure it qualifies as a bona fide delusion.” As an example, Lifton said, when Trump claimed that former president Barack Obama was born in Kenya, “he was manipulating that lie as well as undoubtedly believing it in part.”

Carlos Lozada in The Washington Post wrote that many politicians and commentators referred to Trump as “crazy” or doubted his mental health. In this book, mental health professionals examine that claim. They conclude that “anyone as mentally unstable as Mr. Trump simply should not be entrusted with the life-and-death powers of the presidency.” Lozada wrote that these conclusions are “compelling,” but presidents with mental illness, like depression, can be effective, and presidents without mental illness can still be dangerous.

Book evaluations

Estelle Freedman, the Robinson Professor in U.S. History at Stanford University, said of the book:

This insightful collection is grounded in historical consciousness of the ways professionals have responded to fascist leaders and unstable politicians in the past. It is a valuable primary source documenting the critical turning point when American psychiatry reassessed the ethics of restraining commentary on the mental health of public officials in light of the “duty to warn’ of imminent danger. Medical and legal experts thoughtfully assess diagnoses of Trump’s behavior and astutely explore how to scrutinize political candidates, address client fears, and assess the ‘Trump Effect’ on our social fabric.