Diane Feinstein, born in 1933, is roughly the same age as my father, which means she’s getting up in years. But she’s still working hard and seemingly as sharp as ever. The California senator recently took over as the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, and with Supreme Court nomination hearings beginning tomorrow, that’s not a job for someone who is slowing down. Her prior top responsibility was on the Senate Intelligence Committee which she chaired for the first six years of the Obama presidency before serving as the Ranking Member for the last two. In that role, she famously sparred furiously with the CIA and their director John Brennan. She still serves on the Intelligence Committee, but Mark Warner of Virginia has taken over there as the top Democrat.
Last week, she and Judiciary chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa met with FBI Director James Comey.
After closed door meetings with FBI Director James Comey on Wednesday, top members of the Senate Judiciary Committee looked grim and rattled and refused to divulge the contents of the meeting to reporters.
At around 5 p.m. E.T. on Wednesday, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) faced reporters but revealed little about their meetings with Comey.
“This briefing was all on sensitive matters,” Feinstein said, “and highly classified and it’s really not anything we can answer any questions about.”
We don’t know the particulars of what was discussed, but we know that at least some of it dealt with the Russian connection to Donald Trump, his campaign, and his surrogates.
I've seen Feinstein have the worried look on her face. This is more than that. She just met with FBI chief Comey.
— Phil Elliott (@Philip_Elliott) March 15, 2017
We know that this meeting only occurred because Chuck Grassley, a Republican, threw something pretty close to an epic fit about what he described as a lack of cooperation from the FBI.
“It doesn’t matter whether you have a Republican or Democrat president, every time they come up here for their nomination hearing . . . I ask them, ‘Are you going to answer phone calls and our letters, and are you going to give us the documents we want?’ And every time we get a real positive ‘yes’! And then they end up being liars!” Grassley said, screaming into the phone during an interview with The Washington Post. “It’s not if they’re treating us differently than another committee. It’s if they’re responding at all.”
Grassley spoke as he awaited a meeting with FBI Director James B. Comey to determine whether the bureau is investigating alleged Russian interference in last year’s elections. Grassley has threatened to block the nomination of Rod J. Rosenstein as deputy attorney general until his committee receives an FBI briefing.
So, even after Comey had agreed to meet with Grassley and Feinstein, Grassley was still so angry that he was screaming into the phone about Comey being a liar to reporters at the Washington Post. That was the setup to the meeting, and they must not have been comforted by what they learned. Some said they looked “grim and rattled,” others that they were visibly shaken.
That was Wednesday. On Friday, Sen. Feinstein was back in her home state meeting with constituents in Los Angeles. She remained grim.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein seemed to indicate Friday that she expects President Donald Trump may disqualify himself from office over potential constitutional breaches and conflicts of interest.
Surrounded by a group of mostly liberal protesters outside a Los Angeles fundraiser, Feinstein fielded a slew of questions on her feelings about what the left has alleged are Trump’s constitutional breaches, including one activist’s recitation of Trump’s potential conflicts of interest — from profiting off of his Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago, to winning trademarks in China.
“How are we going to get him out?” the questioner asked.
“I think he’s gonna get himself out,” the California Democrat and member of the Senate intelligence committee replied.
Admittedly, the questions weren’t directed to Russia’s role in the election, but her briefing with Comey could not have been far from her mind. Asked whether Trump had committed an impeachable offense, she stated that “I can’t answer that right now,” echoing her post-Comey remarks where she apologized for not being able to discuss what she and Grassley had learned.
Now, Feinstein may be right that Trump will be the author of his own undoing, but there will have to be a mechanism for that. Congressional leaders or members of Trump’s cabinet will have to step up and insist that he step down. So, in that sense, it would be delusional if Feinstein intended to be taken literally when she said that Trump would get himself out.
On some level, she must still have faith that our leaders are capable of protecting the Constitution and the country. And I’m glad that she has that faith even if she is ultimately proven wrong. Without that faith, there is simple no hope and our country will continue to suffer under an unacceptable level of risk that will almost assuredly translate into disaster.
I share her faith, but I am not so sure that we’re not too far gone to save ourselves. All I know is that we must act as if we still have a chance even if we don’t.