Sen. Feinstein dials back statement that Trump could be 'good president,' after backlash

Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein created a small uproar Tuesday after telling a San Francisco audience that if President Trump "can learn and change," he could “be a good president.”

The conciliatory language didn’t last long.

California’s senior senator issued a lengthy statement late Wednesday clarifying her true feelings toward the president – which are largely negative.

“I’ve been strongly critical of President Trump when I disagree on policy and with his behavior,” she said, noting she was “appalled” by Trump’s response to the Charlottesville violence and the pardon of former Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

And she sought to put her statement from the day before in context: “The duty of the American president is to bring people together, not cater to one segment of a political base; to solve problems, not campaign constantly. While I’m under no illusion that it’s likely to happen and will continue to oppose his policies, I want President Trump to change for the good of the country.”

The San Francisco Chronicle reported on Feinstein’s original remarks during an interview at the Herbst Theater.

The paper described the event as a “political lovefest” — pointing out that Feinstein is wildly popular in San Francisco, where she served as mayor for a decade.

Toward the end of the evening, Feinstein reportedly shocked the crowd when she declined to say that Trump should be impeached and told the audience they should be prepared to see Trump complete his four-year term.

Feinstein serves on both the Senate Intelligence Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee, both of which are investigating Russia’s alleged involvement in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

“The question is whether he can learn and change. If so, I believe he can be a good president,” she said.

The report said, “the crowd reacted with stunned silence, broken only with scattered 'No’s' and a few hisses and some nervous laughter.” The article said that kind of talk is “never heard in Democratic circles.”

Feinstein has indeed been a tough critic of Trump. She recently slammed his decision to pardon Arpaio, saying Trump's action shows a “flagrant disregard for the rule of law in this country.”

She has also criticized Trump’s transgender military ban and called the nature of Trump’s immigration policies “cruel and arbitrary.”

Fox News’ Edmund DeMarche and The Associated Press contributed to this report.