Dianne Feinstein Was 'Diminished but Lucid' in Interview Defending Her Record, Remaining Years in Office

"My attendance is good. I put in the hours. We represent a huge state. And so I'm rather puzzled by all of this," the California senator says in a new interview

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California Sen. Dianne Feinstein said in a new interview that she remains an active, effective legislator and intends to serve the remainder of her term amid the latest wave of whispers that she is allegedly too mentally infirmed to hold office.

Feinstein told The San Francisco Chronicle on Thursday in a call with the paper's editorial board that she does not plan to step down before her term ends in 2024.

The board, in a column, described Feinstein as "diminished but lucid and responsive."

"I meet regularly with leaders," she told the board. "I'm not isolated. I see people. My attendance is good. I put in the hours. We represent a huge state."

As for the accounts of her having memory issues and claims she can no longer execute her duties, she told the Chronicle, "I'm rather puzzled by all of this." She insisted no one had come to her with their issues, if any.

"No, that conversation has not happened," she said. "The real conversation is whether I'm an effective representative for 40 million people."

Feinstein's interview with the paper's editorial board came after it published a lengthy report last week detailing accounts from some of Feinstein's colleagues who questioned her capacity to continue serving the state's nearly 40 million people.

At 88, Feinstein is the oldest-serving senator, a few months ahead of Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley. Her age has been a campaign issue before, but in her last election she won the overwhelming support of California voters.

In the Chronicle story last week, one unidentified lawmaker claimed she had repeated herself and appeared to forget topics already discussed in a policy meeting.

"I have worked with her for a long time and long enough to know what she was like just a few years ago: always in command, always in charge, on top of the details, basically couldn't resist a conversation where she was driving some bill or some idea. All of that is gone," the lawmaker told the Chronicle.

"She was an intellectual and political force not that long ago, and that's why my encounter with her was so jarring," the lawmaker added. "Because there was just no trace of that."

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Richard Blum
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, right, smiles next to husband Richard Blum at a 2018 election night event in San Francisco. Jeff Chiu/AP/Shutterstock

In the Chronicle story, a total of four U.S. senators, including three Democrats, and three former staffers and a California Democrat serving in the House of Representatives all said Feinstein's memory was deteriorating to the point that they felt she could not fulfill her job duties without the help of her staff.

The lawmakers interviewed in the new Chronicle piece said that Feinstein's memory problems seemed sporadic. At times, she was coherent and appeared composed, according to the report, which cited her turns questioning Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson during the Senate Judiciary Committee's confirmation hearings last month as an example of her good days.

On her bad days, the sources told the Chronicle, she seemed unable to recognize colleagues she had worked with for a long time.

"It's bad, and it's getting worse," a Democratic senator told the paper.

(Feinstein isn't the first senator to face such issues: Mississippi's Thad Cochran resigned in 2018 at age 80, citing health issues, amid chatter about his physical stamina and mental acumen.)

Though she acknowledged to the editorial board some slip-ups, Feinstein blamed her state of mind in part on the stress caused by husband Richard Blum's death in February, which she also cited in a statement issued separate from her interview.

"I've had a rough year. A cancer death doesn't come fast. And this is the second husband I've lost to cancer," she told the editorial board, which wrote that "it was clear from our conversation ... that moments of clarity still reign."

Ranking member U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) questions Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett as she testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the second day of her Supreme Court confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill
Dianne Feinstein. Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty

In her separate statement shared by her press team last week, Feinstein also pushed back on the accounts published by the Chronicle.

"I remain committed to do what I said I would when I was re-elected in 2018: fight for Californians, especially on the economy and the key issues for California of water and fire," she said in the statement.

"While I have focused for much of the past year on my husband's health and ultimate passing," she continued, "I have remained committed to achieving results and I'd put my record up against anyone's."

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