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Feinstein defends record against critics at town hall meeting in SF

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Sen. Dianne Feinstein speaks during a town hall meeting at Scottish Rite Masonic Center in San Francisco, Calif. on April 17, 2017 (Steven Ho/Special to S.F. Examiner)

At a town hall meeting in San Francisco on Monday, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein defended her record to a crowd pushing for stronger action against the administration of President Donald Trump.

While the crowd at the Scottish Rite Masonic Center appeared largely supportive, Feinstein was interrupted repeatedly by shouts and boos during the free, ticketed event, with supporters at times actively shushing and shouting down her critics. The former San Francisco mayor held her ground, however, with tart, pragmatic responses.

The outcry began during the very first question of the town hall, on what steps she would take to avoid war in the Middle East. After Feinstein gave a lengthy answer describing the threat posed by Kim Jong Un in North Korea and by Bashar al-Assad in Syria, she was met with boos and shouts of “Answer the question!”

“Well OK, if you think you know more about it than I do, then you go right ahead,” Feinstein told one particularly vocal critic before calling for Trump to seek authorization from Congress before he makes any further attacks against Syria. She did not take a clear position on any further military attacks.

At another point, when someone in the audience called her a “hawk,” Feinstein testily responded, “Why don’t you leave the name calling out of it?”

The senator met with particularly loud boos from the audience for her response on a question about her support for single-payer health care.

“Where single-payer health care is going to mean complete takeover by the government of all health care, I’m not there,” Feinstein said, triggering a round of chanting from the audience of “Single payer now! Single payer now!”

However, she drew applause when she said that she and others were looking at legal ways to address violations of the Constitution’s emoluments clause, potential conflicts of interest by Trump and federal payments for business trips taken by his family members.

She also drew applause when she spoke strongly in support of legislation reducing the influence of “dark money” and limiting individual contributions in political campaigns, and stated her opposition to the renewal of “War on Drugs” policies called for by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

When Feinstein responded to a question on working with “fascists in the White House” by telling the questioner she wanted to get back to him, the room again erupted in shouts.

However, she defended herself strongly, noting that “all of this takes a plan.”

“You’ve got to work something out, you need people with you. If anything needs to get voted on, you need the votes,” she said.

“I can show you what I’ve gotten done, and I’d be surprised if you found many senators who have gotten much more done, but I didn’t get there by making statements that I can’t get done,” Feinstein said.

Feinstein, 83, has held her seat since 1992 and is up for re-election next year. She has not yet said whether she will run for re-election.

Feinstein said Monday that she will have another town hall meeting locally this summer on a Saturday, when more residents can attend.

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