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WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump, who uses Twitter even to announce major foreign policy decisions, went back to the social media outlet on Saturday to defend himself against charges that he is mentally unstable.

“Actually, throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart. Crooked Hillary Clinton also played these cards very hard and, as everyone knows, went down in flames,” he tweeted.

“I went from VERY successful businessman, to top TV Star to President of the United States (on my first try). I think that would qualify as not smart, but genius....and a very stable genius at that!”

Questions about Mr Trump’s mental health have been part of Washington’s political gossips ever since he entered the White House in January last year but an incendiary book — Fire and Fury, which was released this week — pushed it on the central stage of political debates.

Even Fox News, which unflinchingly supports Mr Trump on most key issues, ran a segment on Saturday morning titled “Media questions Trump’s mental state.”

The book’s author — journalist Michael Wolf — told BBC’s Radio 4 that Mr Trump’s increasingly erratic behaviour forced his aides to question the president’s mental fortitude.

“The truth is, over this period that I witnessed, this seven or eight months, they all came to the conclusion gradually at first, then faster and faster, that something was unbelievable amiss here,” he said.

“That this was more peculiar than they ever imagined it could be. And at the end, they had to look at Donald Trump and say, ‘No, this is a man who can’t function in his job as president.’ He may have been elected president, but that does not turn him into president,” Mr Wolf added.

Enraged by widespread speculation about his mental fitness stirred by the book and the author’s remarks in subsequent media interviews, President Trump said his opponents resorted to mud-slinging after they failed to substantiate their claim that he won the 2016 election with Russia’s help.

“Now that Russian collusion, after one year of intense study, has proven to be a total hoax on the American public, the Democrats and their lapdogs, the Fake News Mainstream Media, are taking out the old Ronald Reagan playbook and screaming mental stability and intelligence,” he tweeted at 7:19 a.m. on Saturday.

Although Mr Trump implied that questions about Mr Reagan’s health were political smears, the US media pointed out that the former president died of complications related to Alzheimer’s disease, which started when he was still in the White House. Mr Reagan’s aides even contemplated the possibility of invoking the 25th amendment to the US Constitution, which allows for the removal of a president who shows a lack of competency.

In a late Friday night tweet, Mr Trump branded Mr Wolf a “total loser” who had written a “really boring and untruthful book”.

The president’s description, however, did not dampen people’s curiosity about the book and it sold out in bookstores across the country in less than 24 hours after it was released. At some stores, people queued up at midnight to buy the book. In the book, Mr. Wolf depicts President Trump as a person with a child- like attention span, unable to process written information and presiding over a West Wing staff that ridicules and derides him.

The author also rejects Mr Trump’s claim that he has stopped watching TV after coming to the White House and now he prefers to read official documents. Mr Wolff says that President Trump is an avid watcher of TV and has three TV sets in his White House bedroom alone.

“Mr Trump didn’t read. He didn’t really even skim. Some believed that for all practical purposes he was no more than semiliterate,” Mr Wolff claims in his book. “Others concluded that he didn’t read because he just didn’t have to, and that in fact this was one of his key attributes as a populist. He was post-literate—total television.”

Published in Dawn, January 7th, 2018