U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein says a meeting with North Korea offers Donald Trump a chance show he can be "consistent, stable, a good negotiator" and she believes the president is smart enough to approach a prospective summit with Kim Jong Un cautiously.
"I think, if there is this opportunity and there is, that it is a major opening for the president to really show that he can be consistent, stable, a good negotiator and work out terms of an agreement, which will lend themselves to de-nuclearization of the Korean peninsula," Feinstein said in a meeting this week with The Sacramento Bee Editorial Board.
Feinstein commented on the upside of Trump's prospective meeting with the North Korean leader in a long response to a question about whether her patience with the president had run out. The veteran senator made waves in November when she said she hoped Trump could be a "good president," calling for patience with him.
The comments are emblematic of Feinstein's measured and pragmatic style as a 25-year incumbent. But the approach also draws criticism in a state leading the resistance to the Trump administration. Her more liberal challenger in the U.S. Senate race casts her as out of touch with California and too soft on a reckless president.
Approximately 53 percent of registered voters in the state disapprove and 41 percent approve of Trump's handling of North Korea, according to UC Berkeley IGS Poll taken in April. Among Feinstein's fellow Democrats, only 17 percent approved, while 77 percent disapproved.
“Trump has proven consistently that he’s inconsistent, unstable and one of the worst negotiators we have ever seen," said Kevin de León, a state senator and Feinstein's Democratic challenger. "He can’t even negotiate for the American people on critical issues such as healthcare and DACA. How do we expect him to deal with the North Koreans?”
Feinstein, who was endorsed by former President Barack Obama on Friday, spoke negatively about Trump at different points during an interview that stretched more than an hour.
The 84-year-old lawmaker initially said her thoughts about the president are "deeply troubled now" compared to when she called for patience. She said the president "must tell the truth day in and day out, not only when it’s convenient."
"In the time I’ve been there, we’ve had Republican presidents and Democratic presidents," Feinstein said. "I never worried about the White House. I never worried about something being done in a fit of anger. I’m worried about it today."
Feinstein said she was alarmed by Trump's tweet in January describing his "nuclear button" as bigger and more powerful than Kim's.
"But look where we are now," Feinstein said. "There may be a meeting. It looks like there will be a meeting. We don’t quite know where. I think the odds are high that the meeting is going to happen."
Trump has said details on the meeting would be announced soon and anticipates the summit will take place later this month or in June.
Feinstein questioned whether the gathering would result in an agreement or a blow up and if the administration is properly preparing. As a senior member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Feinstein said she reads every report about North Korea she can get her hands on.
"There is no question that they have been able to move very quickly with their nuclear program," Feinstein said. "They have done six nuclear tests. They have a long range ballistic missile, an intermediate range ballistic missile, and I believe, based on what I’ve read, that they should shortly be able to fit a nuclear weapon on it."
Feinstein said she believes Trump and Kim think similarly.
"I suspect that there’s mutual caution…dealing with each other," Feinstein said when asked if she had concerns about a summit between the two volatile leaders. "I think our president is smart enough to know that and Kim Jun Un is reportedly very smart, craven. I mean here’s a man who can kill his own family members, let alone others."
"And so that’s a whole different dynamic than in this country with our president," Feinstein went on. "Now, the question is, is this the wisest way to go? And I can’t answer that because it could go badly. But it could go well, too. The president is saying if we can’t come to an agreement on de-nuclearlization 'I will walk away with respect.' Now this is a new statement. We’ll see.''