Dianne Feinstein claimed she hadn’t “been gone” when questioned by reporters on Tuesday about her absence from Congress. The 89-year-old California senator returned to D.C. last week after a months-long medical leave that has raised questions about the state of her health and ability to continue serving in government.
“No, I haven’t been gone,” Feinstein told a gaggle of reporters when asked about how the first few days following her return had unfolded.
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“I haven’t been gone. You should … I haven’t been gone. I’ve been working,” she added.
When questioned as to whether she meant she’d been working from home, Feinstein reportedly became agitated. “No, I’ve been here. I’ve been voting — Please. You either know or don’t know,” she said before being moved away by staffers pushing her wheelchair.
Feinstein has participated in several votes on the Senate floor since her return but missed more than 50 votes during her leave of absence. As previously reported by Rolling Stone, while concerns over Feinstein’s ability to serve the remainder of her term have been in the news recently, her health issues extend back years.
Sources say that staff have long used a system to ensure Feinstein is never unaccompanied within the Capitol. The system was implemented over concerns about what the senator might say to reporters while unattended. Staffers say Feinstein was unaware of the system, which ensures a staffer is always able to accompany her if she leaves her office.
Jamarcus Purley — a former staffer who left Feinstein’s office on bad terms — and other staffers told Rolling Stone that the senator often repeats entire conversations multiple times during meetings, or reacts in bewilderment when presented with documents she requested. “Junior staff were making jokes about her cognitive decline. Interns were noticing it,” Purley said.
Feinstein announced in February that she would not seek re-election when her term ends in November of next year.
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