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Sen. Dianne Feinstein gets an earful at Los Angeles town hall, but sticks to her centrist guns

 (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

California's Sen. Dianne Feinstein faced a largely friendly Los Angeles crowd at town hall Thursday, though the crowd came with a resounding, and sometimes loud, question: How are you resisting President Trump's agenda?

The 1,000 ticket holders at South Los Angeles' First AME Church quizzed the Democrat on whether the U.S. should be more heavily involved in Syria ("I think the time has come" ) and whether she'd support expanding Medicare everyone is eligible (“Not at this stage").

It was Feinstein's second town hall of the week and her second town hall ever. She faced an at times contentious crowd in San Francisco on Monday.

Tessie Borden, who helps lead the progressive protest group Indivisible Los Angeles said she was grateful Feinstein held the town hall, but felt like they should not have had to pressure her so much to hold it in the first place. (Protesters outside Feinstein's offices and home have been encouraging her to hold a town hall since Trump's inauguration.)

Borden said although she thinks there is a time and place for a moderate Democrat willing to work with the other party, her group wants Feinstein to take bolder, more progressive positions.

"We know we're not always going to win. We're proud for her to take losing positions if they are the right positions," Borden said.

But Feinstein told the anti-Trump crowd she isn't going to pursue charges against Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions for misleading the Senate Judiciary Committee about his contact with Russia's ambassador during the campaign. As the ranking Democrat on the committee, she opposed Sessions' nomination and urged him to recuse himself from the Russia investigation.

"The elements are not there to prove perjury, that is what the lawyers tell us," she said.

Feinstein told reporters afterward that she understands why many of her constituents want her to be defiant against Trump and Republicans. She's voted against many of the Republican initiatives that worry progressives, but says she also has to work with the other side — a position she's long held and one that's cemented her reputation as a centrist dealmaker.

She told the crowd that unless Democrats have the votes they need in Congress to block Trump's policies, they should at least work with Republicans for a middle ground on things they might be able to agree on, such as  infrastructure.

“Resistance to me means doing the best I can to serve people in the way we do,” Feinstein said. “I’m giving opposition in my votes, in my comments, in my speeches; now I don’t rant and rail because I’ve got other ways of being constructive, and I think the majority of people want me to be constructive.”

Feinstein, who has served in the Senate since the early 1990s, has not said directly whether she will seek another six-year term, but has strongly hinted that she plans to run again.

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