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Sen. Feinstein said Trump can be a 'good president,' but there's more to the story

Seema Mehta, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Political News

A few words about President Donald Trump from Sen. Dianne Feinstein over the summer personified her well-worn reputation as a measured veteran elected official. And they'll also surely be the centerpieces of Democratic campaigns attempting to unseat her.

It was a boilerplate political event at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco on Aug. 29. Feinstein, D-Calif., outlined her views on immigration, the threat of North Korea and the president's response to white nationalist protests in Charlottesville, Va., while answering friendly questions from confidante and former Rep. Ellen Tauscher, a Democrat.

There were some angry members of the crowd who called for Trump's impeachment. Amid the 70-minute discussion, she said two things that lit a fire under liberals already frustrated by her measured approach.

Each comment has already been shorthanded by rivals: Feinstein thinks Trump can be a good president! And she asked Americans to be patient with Trump!

There's more to the story.

Fifty-five minutes into the conversation, Feinstein was asked when Republican leaders would turn against Trump and either pursue impeachment or urge him to resign. She replied with these 121 words. Her critics have boiled that statement down to six.

"Well, um, I'd really rather not comment. However, I think you all know impeachment and the House brings the impeachment and then the Senate sits as a court and votes. At the end there is a trial in front of the Senate. I've kind of been there done that. It's not the greatest thing in the world. That's for sure."

"Look, this man is going to be president, most likely for the rest of this term. I just hope he has the ability to learn, and to change. And if he does, he can be a good president. And that's my hope. I have my own personal feelings about it."

"Yeah, I understand how you feel," Feinstein responded. "I understand how you feel."

Later, she was asked why the Democratic message seemed muted compared with all the airtime Trump gets. This was just after the flooding in Houston. Feinstein urged the crowd to give Trump latitude in his early tenure. But that call for "patience" was followed by words marked by skepticism.

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