NYT op-ed raises more questions about Trump's mental fitness

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TODAY:

  • An anonymous op-ed published in the New York Times has sent Washington into chaos, while questions around Donald Trump's mental fitness to be president resurface
  • Tonight's At Issue panel is a must-watch, writes Rosemary Barton
  • New concerns about the effects of radiation on Japanese workers and nearby residents from the Fukushima reactor disaster
  • Missed The National last night? Watch it here

Trump's turncoat fears

The one quality that Donald Trump prizes above all others is loyalty

But he has never been a big believer in reciprocating it — in his business dealings, career as an apprentice-firing reality TV star, politics or even his personal life.

Such ruthlessness led him to the very pinnacle of American life. 

And now, it is seemingly being repaid in kind.

An anonymous editorial from a "senior official in the Trump administration" published yesterday afternoon by the New York Times has gone off like a bomb in Washington.

It details an in-house "resistance" to the snap decisions, tantrums and "amoral" inclinations of a president who it says, "continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic."

Trump's "instability" is so profound, the author suggests, that there were "early whispers within the cabinet" about invoking the 25th Amendment, a constitutional mechanism to remove him from office. It's an idea that was shelved for fear of creating a national crisis. 

That revelation, however, must be adding extra urgency to the president's attempts to root out the unbelievers within his inner circle

For while the process of removing a president from office is complex, it doesn't take that many people to trigger it. 

The 1967 amendment, which was meant to address questions of capacity raised by the assassination of John F. Kennedy four years earlier, can be kick-started with the signatures of the vice-president and "a majority of principal officers of the executive departments" — which in Trump's case would mean eight of his 15 cabinet secretaries — on a letter to the leaders of the House and Senate.

After that, things get messy. 

The vice-president would be temporarily invested with all the powers of the presidency. But if Trump objected, Congress would need to debate and ratify his removal by a two-thirds majority within 21 days. A scenario that could easily turn into a nightmare in the highly charged and highly partisan U.S. political climate. 

The amendment has never been used before, but it has been seriously considered. 

In early 1987, Ronald Reagan's closest aides, worried by the then-president's detached and depressed behaviour following the Iran-contra scandal — he wouldn't read his briefing notes and only seemed interested in talking about the past — circulated a memo discussing whether or not they needed to have him removed from office

(Years later, the president's son, Ron Reagan, wrote a memoir in which he outlined his belief that his father was displaying the early signs of Alzheimer's disease during his second term.) 

Nor is the New York Times op-ed the first time that people have suggested that the 25th Amendment might come into play during Trump's presidency. While promoting his book Fire and Fury earlier this year, Michael Wolff said people in the West Wing bring up the amendment "all the time" when discussing the president's erratic behaviour. 

Democrats in Washington have been openly expressing concerns about Trump's mental fitness for over a year, going as far as to summon a noted Yale psychiatry professor to Capitol Hill for briefings on the case to have him removed from office. And more than 70,000 mental health professionals have signed a petition expressing concern that Trump manifests the symptoms of "a serious mental illness." 

Trump's rage over the anonymous editorial has set off a race among his cabinet confidants to deny that they are the doubter in the midst.

But what is clear is that the list of people Donald Trump can trust is shrinking by the day. 

And it may not even include himself. 


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The interim House of Commons Chamber is seen during a media tour of the renovated West Block on Parliament Hill in June. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang)

Catch up with At Issue

The At Issue panel is a must-watch tonight, host Rosemary Barton writes:

Let's assume for a moment that you've had a rather busy summer. You went to the cottage (or the Lake, as we so charmingly call it in Manitoba), you had a lot of BBQs or just preferred to follow sports rather than politics.

So you may have rightly missed a few events. I have a solution.

At Issue will gather around the table to put the past couple of months into perspective and give you some hints about what is to come.

We are heading into what is to be a heady 12 months (more, really) of politics. There are the U.S. midterms, a Quebec election and another in New Brunswick. This spring, Alberta heads to the polls, and by then we are really into the countdown to the federal election in October 2019.

It's gonna be busy and it's gonna be exciting, and you might need some smart people to help guide you through things. Or you might just want to heckle at your screen of choice.

Consider tonight your first chance to do that since June. On At Issue we'll be talking NAFTA, pipelines and odds are that Trump's name may come up.

We'll look at where the Liberal government stands on its many promises, how the Conservatives will manage their divisions — and where the NDP is in all of this.

Chantal Hébert, Andrew Coyne, Paul Wells and Shachi Kurl will all be joining me in Toronto tonight.

It's going to be an exciting year and I hope you'll be along for the ride.

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New Fukushima radiation fears

The Fukushima reactor meltdown has claimed its first official victim.

A staff member of the Tokyo Electric Power Company measures radiation levels at the tsunami-crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima prefecture in July. (Kimimasa Mayama/AFP/Getty Images)

The Japanese government acknowledged yesterday that a former worker at the nuclear facility has died from lung cancer caused by radiation exposure.

The unidentified man, who was in his 50s, had spent his career working in the Japanese nuclear industry, and was charged with measuring radiation levels at Fukushima in the aftermath of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that led to three reactor failures. His cancer was diagnosed two years ago.

At least three other workers at the plant have fallen ill from the post-disaster radiation.

More than 470,000 people were forced from their homes by the March 11, 2011 meltdown. Hundreds of deaths have been attributed to the strain and stress of the evacuations, particularly amongst the elderly and hospital patients.

But there are growing fears that there are more directly linked fatalities to come.

Last month, a group of UN experts sounded the alarm over the continuing clean-up operations at the plant, saying that the workforce, which includes migrants and homeless people, are being shortchanged on training and protective gear.

According to the special rapporteurs, large contractors have been using inexperienced, smaller firms to recruit labourers, creating "favourable conditions for the abuse and violation of workers' rights," and setting up situations where the labourers are "forced to make the abhorrent choice between their health and income."

Almost 77,000 people worked on the decontamination effort between 2011 and 2016, and tens of thousands more continue to be involved in the cleanup.

And local residents and environmentalists are concerned about a plan being touted by the Fukushima plant's owners, the Tokyo Electric Power Company, that would see the release of tritium-tainted water, currently stored on-site in tanks, into the ocean.

A woman takes a picture of a statue of a child wearing a hazardous material suit in Fukushima, Japan, on Aug. 14. (Kwiyeon Ha/Reuters)

Japanese sensitivities over how the region is being portrayed internationally complicate matters.

Officials from the Fukushima prefecture and the national Reconstruction Agency have been threatening legal action over a recent episode of the Netflix series Dark Tourist, in which the host, David Farrier, tours the area near the plant with a hand-held Geiger counter. Farrier finds higher-than-expected radiation levels and expresses his concern about the safety of food at local restaurants.

Last week, Hiroshi Kohata, the mayor of Fukushima, bowed to public pressure and announced the removal of a controversial statue that depicts an injured child wearing a yellow hazmat suit.

The six-metre-tall artwork is supposed to symbolize local hopes for reconstruction, and a "future free from nuclear disasters," but people complained that it gives a false impression of danger in the city, which is located more than 60 kilometres from the crippled plant.

The pressure is on to rehabilitate Fukushima's image in advance of the 2020 Summer Olympics, when the city will be a host venue for softball and baseball.

Earlier this summer, Games organizers announced that the torch relay will start in Fukushima on March 26, 2020, beginning the three-and-a-half month journey of the Olympic flame to Tokyo.


A few words on…

Mixing the old and the new.


Quote of the moment

"Any consensual sexual relationship between two consenting adults — homosexuals, heterosexuals or lesbians — cannot be said to be unconstitutional."

– Dipak Misra, the Chief Justice of India's Supreme Court, in a ruling today that overturned a colonial-era ban on gay sex.


What The National is reading

  • I am part of the resistance inside the Trump administration (NY Times)
  • Kim Jong Un says he still trusts Trump (Washington Post)
  • Japan hit by deadly earthquake and mudslides (BBC)
  • Melting glaciers are triggering the world's biggest tsunamis (CBC)
  • Burberry stops using fur, angora, burns unsold stock (Agence France Presse)
  • Cranberries singer died after excessive drinking, inquest reveals (CBC)
  • Giraffe attack horror: Mum and son fighting for life (New Zealand Herald)
  • The girdle-inspired history of the very first spacesuits (Racked)

Today in history

Sept. 6, 1982: Meet the CFL's Montreal Concordes — the worst team in football

Born out of the ashes of a Montreal Alouettes bankruptcy, the Concordes had little time — or money — to prepare for the 1982 CFL season. And it showed, painfully, week after week. The Journal's Tom Alderman describes the process of building a team from "the halt, lame rejects and cast-offs," and the overwhelming task at hand: "to snatch minimal disgrace from absolute disaster."

They are the worst football team in North America, but the Montreal Concordes remain high-spirited in spite of their low standing. 9:27

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