California Sen. Dianne Feinstein has long relied on her reputation as a compromiser to get things done in Washington, D.C.
But since President Trump was elected last year, Feinstein has faced loud grumbling from progressive activists back home who are upset by her penchant for moderation. Anger toward Feinstein crystallized last fall when she told a San Francisco audience, “I think we have to have some patience” with Trump in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.
Soon after, state Senate leader Kevin de León announced he would challenge Feinstein, a fellow Democrat, and set himself up as a bombastic counterweight to Trump. Since then, things have changed for the 84-year-old senator, who is seeking a fifth full term.
Here’s how Feinstein has taken on Trump since De León entered the race in October:
‘There’s no room for racism in the Oval Office’
Feinstein had some of her harshest words for the president to date on Friday, when she reacted to reports that Trump questioned why the U.S. allows immigrants from “shithole countries” such as Haiti and African nations. It was the closest she's come to calling on Trump to resign, and the closest she’s come to calling the president a racist.
“We all need to stop pretending that there are no consequences when the most powerful person in the world espouses racist views and gives a wink and a nod to the darkest elements in our society. If the president can’t control himself and lead this country with the authority, dignity and leadership it requires, then he shouldn’t be the president. There’s no room for racism in the Oval Office,” Feinstein said in a statement.
Taking a stand for ‘Dreamers’
Feinstein was under a lot of pressure in December to withhold support for a spending bill in exchange for protections for people brought to the country illegally as children. So-called Dreamers, a large chunk of whom are Californians, protested at her California and Washington, D.C., offices after she initially said she wouldn’t try to block the bill and offered no explanation. At a Los Angeles rally, De León told her “don’t come back to California” without a deal.
Feinstein reversed her position at the last minute. She said she wouldn’t vote for the spending bill without a solution for Dreamers and that it was “absolutely unconscionable” that Republicans were leaving Washington for the holidays without a deal for Dreamers.
Feinstein also pushed hard for a simple solution for Dreamers in front of cameras at a White House meeting last week, asking Trump to consider a straightforward bill for Dreamers with an agreement to address wider immigration reforms soon after: “What about a clean DACA bill now with a commitment that we go into a comprehensive immigration reform procedure…?”
That prompted Trump to say he would support such a bill until House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) reminded the president that he also wanted to include border security efforts as part of a deal.
Releasing testimony on Russia investigation
Feinstein earned a wave of progressive accolades last week when she released a transcript of congressional testimony from the co-founder of Fusion GPS, the research firm behind a notorious dossier of allegations about Trump’s ties to officials in Russia.
Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans had resisted making the testimony public, claiming it would interfere with multiple congressional investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign.
The transcript did not include many surprises, but the fact that Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the committee, released it over Republican objections sent ripples through Washington.
Feinstein said in a statement that “the innuendo and misinformation circulating about the transcript are part of a deeply troubling effort to undermine the investigation into potential collusion and obstruction of justice. The only way to set the record straight is to make the transcript public.”
Feinstein later apologized to Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) for not giving him a heads-up before she released the transcript.
Feinstein's actions prompted Trump to call her “Sneaky Dianne Feinstein,” a nickname likely to endear the senator to liberals who want to see her on Trump’s bad side.
‘The concern rises’
“Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd asked Feinstein in early December about Trump’s ability to be president.
“The concern rises with the day,” Feinstein said.
Still, she stopped short of calling for his impeachment or removal. Asked if it was time to think about getting Trump out of office, Feinstein replied like her usual moderate self: “I believe it’s time for us to finish our investigation and I don’t want to bias any part of the investigation with premature thinking.”
But Feinstein threw a bone to liberals when she added that indictments and the FBI’s plea deals with people connected to the Trump campaign show the agency is “putting together a case of obstruction of justice.”
“I would assume many in the White House are under investigation in this,” she said.