Speed Reads

it didn't work

Senate Democrats reportedly staged an intervention around Dianne Feinstein's mental 'deterioration'

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has long been seen as "the epitome of a female trailblazer in Washington," leading a rush of new female leadership in the Senate and, until recently, heading the powerful Judiciary Committee, Jane Mayer writes in The New Yorker. But recent public and private episodes have raised concerns about her mental fitness, and have some Senate insiders convinced she should step down.

Reflecting a "humiliating" incident where Feinstein asked the exact same question of Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey twice in a row, people familiar with the senator say "her short-term memory has grown so poor that she often forgets she has been briefed on a topic," Mayer writes. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) reportedly had "several serious and painful talks with Feinstein" and tried to get her to "step aside on her own terms." But, problematically, "Feinstein seemed to forget about the conversations soon after they talked," Mayer writes. Even attempts to enlist help from Feinstein's husband didn't help. "It was like Groundhog Day, but with the pain fresh each time," one Senate source said.

Some former Feinstein aides contended "rumors of her cognitive decline have been exaggerated," and recount how other male senators have been allowed to stay in office long past their mental peak, Mayer writes. Feinstein and Schumer's offices declined to comment.

Feinstein did step down from heading the Judiciary Committee in November, after her handling of Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett's confirmation hearing led to a rise in support for the then-nominee. Ahead of the New Yorker report on Wednesday, Senate Democrats quietly approved rule changes to pave the way for Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) to head the committee, The Washington Post reports. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) reportedly wanted the spot, seeing as Durbin is already the party's whip.