‘Extremely stable genius’: Trump defends his mental fitness as he tears into Pelosi

The speaker says he needs ‘an intervention.’ The president says ‘she’s lost it.’

Washington’s political chaos descended into farce on Thursday when the speaker of the House and the president of the United States accused one another of being mentally unwell.

Hijacking an afternoon White House event with American farmers and agriculture industry leaders, President Donald Trump began calling on his top aides to state for the public record that he was “calm” during a disastrous meeting with Democratic leaders the day before.

“I’ve been watching her. I have been watching her for a long period of time. She’s not the same person. She’s lost it,” Trump said of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, just moments after he announced $16 billion in federal aid to growers hammered by the U.S.-China trade conflict.

In a remarkable scene, the president proceeded to name-check senior White House staff and advisers in the Roosevelt Room whom he said had attended Wednesday’s session on infrastructure initiatives with top congressional Democrats — which Trump abandoned after declaring that the lawmakers could not simultaneously negotiate legislation while investigating and threatening to impeach him.

“Kellyanne, what was my temperament yesterday?” Trump asked White House counselor Kellyanne Conway.

“Very calm. No tamper tantrum,” she replied before criticizing journalists’ coverage of the meeting, which Trump has complained portrayed him with a “rage narrative.”

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“The whole Democrat Party is very messed up. They have never recovered from the great election of 2016 — an election that I think you folks liked very much, right?” Trump said, addressing the farmers flanking his lectern. “Well, Nancy Pelosi was not happy about it, and she is a mess.”

Not even the leaders’ families were spared from the sniping and accusations of poor physical well-being. Christine Pelosi, the speaker’s daughter, sought to defend her mother on Twitter earlier Thursday, commenting on a Washington Post reportdetailing how a conservative Facebook page had posted a doctored video of the California Democrat in which she appears to drunkenly slur her words.

“Republicans and their conservative allies have been pumping this despicable fake meme for years! Now they are caught,” Christine Pelosi wrote online. “#FactCheck: Madam Speaker doesn’t even drink alcohol!”

Pelosi herself on Thursday invoked the president’s wife and children in appearing to question Trump’s fitness for office, telling reporters in the Capitol: “I wish that his family or his administration or his staff would have an intervention for the good of the country.”

At that same news conference, the speaker questioned whether Trump was truly in charge of his White House and seemed to jokingly reference the Constitution’s 25th Amendment, which allows the Cabinet to remove a president from office if he can’t perform his duties.

It was a reporter’s question at the White House about Pelosi’s “intervention” remark — which Trump dubbed “a nasty-type statement” — that put the president on the defensive Thursday. He began turning to aides such as Mercedes Schlapp, the White House director of strategic communications, and pressing them for first-hand accounts of his scuttled meeting with Democrats.

“You were very calm and you were very direct, and you sent a very firm message to the speaker and to the Democrats,” Schlapp said.

Next up was Trump’s top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, who said the president’s conversation with Democrats was “much calmer than some of our trade meetings,” followed by White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who described the president’s demeanor as “very calm and straightforward and clear.”

But the greatest praise for the commander in chief came from Trump himself, who told the assembled members of the media during one non-sequitur: “I’m an extremely stable genius. OK?”

Minutes after the event concluded, Pelosi had already fired back a retort from the speaker’s official Twitter account.

“When the ‘extremely stable genius’ starts acting more presidential,” she wrote online, “I’ll be happy to work with him on infrastructure, trade and other issues.”

The bizarre exchange of insults between the two ends of Pennsylvania Avenue comes amid growing pressure on Speaker Pelosi to pursue an impeachment inquiry into the president’s conduct.

At a closed-door meeting Thursday morning with her Democratic colleagues, Pelosi claimed that Trump “wants to be impeached” by the House so that he can notch a victory during a trial in the Senate, which is controlled by a healthy Republican majority.

Close associates and Republicans close to the president, interviewed in recent weeks, dispute the idea that Trump welcomes impeachment. But with impeachment talk increasingly in the air in Washington and Trump seeming to goad Democrats into moving in that direction, the president may be taking the threat more seriously now.

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“In the past he’s always pooh-poohed the idea of impeachment and he always thought that they’re not really serious about it,” said a Republican close to the White House who has discussed the issue with Trump. “That this is sort of a game that they’re putting out there. Even the media, his view was, ‘They need me, I’m the biggest star they ever had and I’m helping the New York Times, MSNBC and CNN.’”

A former senior White House official said Trump doesn’t want to get impeached “in his heart of hearts,” but “the specter of [impeachment] creates that production value that’s so important to him.”

Drag-out fights with Democrats “creates the diametric choice between us and them,” the former official added. “That’s why he does those rallies. It is what motivates his base, it’s what motivates him and he’s ‘producing’ the presidency.”

Trump also sees impeachment as a political wedge he can wield against Pelosi’s newly expanded caucus, this person said: “He thinks that this is just going to rip the Democrats apart because some want to [impeach] and some don’t.”

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