A look back at some of Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s most troublesome moments in the Senate
California Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein announced Tuesday that she will not seek re-election in 2024, putting a conclusion date on her more than 30-year career in the Senate that was filled with a number of controversial remarks and moves.
“I am announcing today I will not run for reelection in 2024 but intend to accomplish as much for California as I can through the end of next year when my term ends,” Feinstein, who has represented the Golden State in the Senate since 1992, said in a statement.
Feinstein – who is the oldest serving senator at age 89 and the longest serving female senator – has had many ups and downs throughout her tenure in the Senate.
DIANNE FEINSTEIN ANNOUNCES SHE WILL NOT SEEK RE-ELECTION IN 2024
- Feinstein’s defense of China and questionable connections
The senator has been a defender of China for decades, becoming the first U.S. mayor to visit the country while running San Francisco. Feinstein supported granting Most Favored Nation (MFN) trade status to China in 2000 – a designation that relaxed restrictions and encouraged a surge in U.S.-China economic cooperation.
In 1994, when the U.S. Senate was considering rescinding this trade status with China over human rights violations, Feinstein argued against it, saying it would “inflame Beijing’s insecurities.”
Feinstein also came to the nation’s defense when China was considered for entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO), which they successfully joined in 2001.
At the 1995 confirmation hearing for former U.S. Ambassador to China Jim Sasser, Feinstein offered a powerful defense to claims of human rights abuses committed by China, saying that the country was “changing” due to Western influence.
Feinstein also compared the 1989 massacre at Tiananmen Square to the U.S. government’s infamously botched 1993 stand-off in Waco, Texas.
“I was appalled as anyone by the tanks at [Tiananmen] Square, but three tanks of this government went into Waco, (Texas) and killed 29 children,” Feinstein said. “They weren’t criminals. Most of the people in Waco had no criminal record. Now those are not analogous; they are different situations. It was wrong of our government, and it was wrong of the Chinese government.”
Last January, a book revealed that Feinstein’s now deceased husband, Richard Blum, had simultaneously grown his fortune immensely by doing business with the communist nation, at one point profiting from a company found to be spying on the U.S. military through Chinese products.
In 2014, the FBI reportedly informed Feinstein, then-chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, that there had been allegations of a spy burrowed in her office. The suspected spy, Russell Lowe, served as Feinstein’s driver in California, but took on additional responsibilities in the office, such as working as a liaison to the Asian American community in California.
The staffer reportedly attended Chinese consulate events on behalf of the senator, and reportedly was recruited after being befriended by someone from China’s Ministry of State Security.
“Five years ago the FBI informed me it had concerns that an administrative member of my California staff was potentially being sought out by the Chinese government to provide information,” Feinstein said in a 2019 statement. “He was not a mole or a spy, but someone who a foreign intelligence service thought it could recruit.”
Feinstein said the FBI “reviewed the matter” and “shared its concerns” with her. The staffer was removed.
DIANNE FEINSTEIN SAYS SHE WON’T STEP DOWN EARLY DESPITE CONCERNING MENTAL HEALTH REPORTS
- Feinstein revealed classified government information
In February 2009, Feinstein, during her tenure as head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, revealed the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was operating missile-firing drones used on suspected insurgents throughout Pakistan from a secret air base within the country, causing deep embarrassment in Washington and Islamabad.
Feinstein’s admission about the program came as U.S. officials refused to acknowledge the missile strikes in tribal areas throughout Pakistan.
Expressing surprise over Pakistan’s opposition to the Predator-launched CIA missile strike campaign against Islamic extremists, Feinstein said at a Worldwide Threat hearing: “As I understand it, these are flown out of a Pakistani base.”
It remains unclear if the senator thought the hearing that day was closed (classified) or not.
“The basing of the pilotless aircraft in Pakistan suggests a much deeper relationship with the United States on counter-terrorism matters than has been publicly acknowledged,” the Los Angeles Times reported at the time. “Such an arrangement would be at odds with protests lodged by officials in Islamabad, the capital, and could inflame anti-American sentiment in the country.”
The highly classified and top-secret program was quickly scrapped, with American drones flying off from the base quickly as American operatives worked to disappear.
“We were gone in 10 days. The drones even sooner,” one former U.S. government adviser to the program told Fox News of the incident. “It cost us $50 million to put that genie back in the bottle.”
- Feinstein suggested a 15-week fetus isn’t a human being
In December 2021, Feinstein, while speaking to Fox News, indicated that she does not believe a fetus could be considered a “human being” at 15 weeks old. The senator’s comments came amid a nationwide discussion around the controversial Mississippi law to ban abortions at 15 weeks.
Asked whether she thought a “fetus at 15 weeks is a human being,” Feinstein responded: “Of course a human being is life, and you do not have life. And so, I think it’s up to others other than me, but I basically believe that women should have the right within certain legal restraints to prevent those situations, which can be prevented – which can be very difficult.”
“But I have been very steady and steadfast in supporting Roe. I believe in a woman’s right to choose. I believe that women should be able to control their own bodies, and that’s my belief.”
Feinstein’s communications director, Tom Mentzer, told Fox News at the time: “Her quote makes clear that she believes ‘a human being is life.’” He didn’t clarify the rest of her comment and said it was Fox News’ “interpretation” that she was saying a 15-week fetus wasn’t a human being.
- Feinstein sat on Kavanaugh accuser’s claims
Feinstein faced pushback from her Republican colleagues in 2018 for waiting nearly two months to inform the Judiciary Committee about the decades-old sexual assault allegations that caused uproar ahead of then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the high court.
That accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, sent Feinstein’s office a letter in July that year, according to The Washington Post. Feinstein went public with the then-anonymous claim in September after a report from The Intercept indicated she was “withholding” a key document about Kavanaugh, just one week before a scheduled Judiciary Committee vote on his confirmation.
In a speech on the Senate floor, then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., excoriated Democrats for what he described as “11th hour” theatrics, saying the accusations should have been raised earlier in “the thousand-plus follow-up questions that senators sent to Judge Kavanaugh in writing,” or the closed, off-the-record session held by the Judiciary Committee.