The psychiatrist who led efforts in 2017 demanding a 25th Amendment ouster of then-President Donald Trump said she does not have the same concerns about President Joe Biden, despite a Justice Department report last week that said Biden has “diminished faculties.” 

Bandy X. Lee, a forensic psychiatrist who edited the 2017 book “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 37 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President,” told The Daily Signal and the Heritage Foundation’s Oversight Project that Biden’s case is different.

Asked about special counsel Robert Hur’s report, she, “Cognitive decline is a normal part of aging.” But she concluded, “The 25th Amendment question, therefore, is even more relevant to Trump, as long as he wishes to be president again, but neither appropriate nor relevant for Biden at this time.” (Her full comment can be found below.)

The 25th Amendment allows for the vice president and a majority of Cabinet members to determine whether a president should be temporarily removed from office if he is deemed unfit to serve. It would require two-thirds majorities of both houses of Congress to permanently remove the president under the amendment. 

The report Hur released on Feb. 8 said Biden “willfully retained and disclosed classified materials after his vice presidency when he was a private citizen” at his home and office. However, Hur said he would not seek charges because Biden would appear to a jury to be an “elderly man with a poor memory” and because his “diminished faculties” make it less likely he intentionally violated the law.

The Hur report says Biden “did not remember when he was vice president, forgetting on the first day of the interview when his term ended … and forgetting on the second day of the interview when his term began.” The report also stated: “He did not remember, even within several years, when his son Beau died.”

After the report, several Republican lawmakers called for using the 25th Amendment to remove Biden from office, just as several Democrats pushed for using the amendment to remove Trump from the presidency. 

“Cognitive decline is a normal part of aging, from early-to-middle adulthood onward,” Lee, who taught at Yale School of Medicine and Yale Law School for 17 years before working at Columbia University and Harvard Medical School, told The Daily Signal in a statement Wednesday.

“While it may seem dramatic or concerning to the public, very high levels of cognitive decline can be present without affecting fitness for duty, as long as self-awareness is unaffected,” Lee said.

Image of Bandy X. Lee’s Twitter profile page.

There is a difference between cognitive decline and “malignant narcissism,” she argued.

Lee stated: 

There are no indications in Joe Biden that he may be unfit, although I and my colleagues have recommended fitness-for-duty evaluations for all presidents and presidential candidates, to be renewed on a yearly basis.  

Much less important positions have this requirement, and military officers, especially those handling nuclear weapons, must undergo rigorous psychological testing before they even assume their positions. That the commander of nuclear weapons is not required to undergo screening is a glaring omission.

My colleagues and I were consulted for the 25th Amendment for Donald Trump when he was president, because he displayed verbal aggression, boasted of sexual assaults, taunted nations with nuclear powers, and demonstrated an attraction to violence.

The state legislatures ratified the 25th Amendment in 1967 after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy four years earlier. Lawmakers crafted the amendment to address the concern about what to do while the president was still alive but experiencing a health crisis.

The 25th Amendment allows for the vice president and a majority of Cabinet secretaries to determine whether a president is physically or mentally unfit to carry out the duties of the office. The vice president would become the acting president on a temporary basis. Congress could remove the president from office permanently with a two-thirds vote of both the House and Senate. That would be an even higher bar to reach than for impeachment, because the latter requires only a simple majority in the House. 

Trump announced in 2020 that he took a cognitive test. Neither Trump nor Biden were evaluated by psychology professionals for mental fitness, however. Making a determination about either could violate the “Goldwater Rule,” which prevents psychologists from offering a “professional opinion unless he or she has conducted an examination and has been granted proper authorization for such a statement.”

The American Psychiatric Association adopted the rule after a group of partisan Democratic psychology professionals declared that 1964 Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater was “psychologically unfit to be president.” 

Lee said that she and her colleagues who contributed to the book conducted an analysis of Trump based on the findings of the 2019 report issued by special counsel Robert Mueller

“Dangerousness makes one automatically unfit,” Lee told The Daily Signal. “A panel of top mental health experts actually performed a full fitness test when the data became available through the Mueller report, and he failed every criterion for fitness for any job, not just president.”

“As these results show, mental capacity is not always possible to determine through casual observation by an untrained eye,” she added. “The 25th Amendment question, therefore, is even more relevant to Trump, as long as he wishes to be president again, but neither appropriate nor relevant for Biden at this time.”

Brandy X. Lee made a similar statement on Feb. 13, stating on her X account that she agreed with a New York Times opinion article that discussed Biden’s cognitive decline. Specifically, she noted, “This neuroscientist is saying what I have been all along: ‘rather than focusing on candidates’ ages per se, we should consider whether they have the capabilities to do the job…. And that should be informed by science, not politics.” 

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