News President Trump

Wednesday 15 August 2018

'I ran for president one time and won' - Donald Trump defends his mental capacity

Donald Trump defended his fitness for office
Donald Trump defended his fitness for office

By Jill Colvin

US President Donald Trump has bemoaned his country's "very weak" liberal laws, saying he is "like, really smart" and, indeed, a "very stable genius".

Mr Trump's defence of his mental fitness in a series of tweets, following unflattering coverage in a new book, was a singular episode in a presidency rife with moments unlike any that have come before in that office.

He was criticising Fire And Fury: Inside The Trump White House, which paints him as a leader who does not understand the weight of his office and whose competence is questioned by aides.

"Actually, throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart," Mr Trump tweeted from Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland, a few hours before a strategy session on the 2018 legislative agenda with Republican congressional leaders and Cabinet members.

Angry: President Trump has hit back at author Michael Wolff’s book on the presidency the only way he knows how — with anger and Twitter. Photo: Getty Images
Angry: President Trump has hit back at author Michael Wolff’s book on the presidency the only way he knows how — with anger and Twitter. Photo: Getty Images

When Mr Trump addressed reporters later, the Ivy League graduate was ready for the question.

"I went to the best colleges for college," said Mr Trump, who holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Pennsylvania.

Michael Wolff: The sharp tongued author has previously written books on Rupert Murdoch and other big ‘money guys’. Photo: Reuters
Michael Wolff: The sharp tongued author has previously written books on Rupert Murdoch and other big ‘money guys’. Photo: Reuters

"I had a situation where I was a very excellent student, came out, made billions and billions of dollars, became one of the top business people, went to television and for 10 years was a tremendous success, as you probably have heard, ran for president one time and won."

His ire was directed at author Michael Wolff, whose book draws a derogatory portrait of the 45th president as an undisciplined man-child who did not actually want to win the White House and who spends his evenings eating cheeseburgers in bed, watching television and talking on the telephone to old friends.

The book also quotes Mr Trump's former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, and other prominent advisers as questioning the president's competence.

"I consider it a work of fiction," Mr Trump told reporters. "The libel laws are very weak in this country.

"If they were strong, it would be very helpful. You wouldn't have things like that happen where you can say whatever comes to your head."

He went on: "I don't know this man. I guess sloppy Steve brought him in the White House quite a bit and it was one of those things.

"That's why sloppy Steve is now looking for a job," Mr Trump said.

In one of his tweets, the president said critics are "taking out the old Ronald Reagan playbook and screaming mental stability and intelligence".

He said his journey from "Very successful businessman", to reality TV star to president on his first try "would qualify as not smart, but genius .... and a very stable genius at that!"

Reagan died in 2004, aged 93, from pneumonia complicated by the Alzheimer's disease that had progressively clouded his mind.

At times when he was president, Reagan seemed forgetful and would lose his train of thought while talking.

Doctors, however, said Alzheimer's was not to blame, noting the disease was diagnosed years after he left office.

Reagan announced his diagnosis in a letter to the American people in 1994, more than five years after leaving the White House.

Mr Trump, now 71, was the oldest president ever when assuming office.

Reagan was nearly eight months younger.

Mr Trump's chief of staff, John Kelly, who has tried to bring order to a chaotic White House, said he had not seen the tweets until reporters showed them to him just before Mr Trump spoke about noon.

But he said Mr Trump did not appear angry.

"I thought he would be, frankly," Mr Kelly said.

As for the tweets: "He feels he can go around the press and get his perspective out by tweeting", explained Mr Kelly.

"That's kind of why he does it."

Chatter about Mr Trump's mental fitness for office has intensified in recent months on cable news shows and among Democrats in Congress.

Mr Trump is set to have his first physical examination as president this coming Friday at Walter Reed National Military Medical Centre in Bethesda, Maryland.

This exam does not typically involve having the president undergo a mental health evaluation, as some Democrats have urged.

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