Trump’s judicial nominee withdraws after struggling to answer basic legal questions

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It makes for painful viewing

The latest judicial nominee put forward by President Donald Trump, who was widely criticised for struggling to answer basic legal questions, has withdrawn from the race.

Matthew Petersen went viral for all the wrong reasons last week, after a video clip showed him struggling to answer a series of questions on legal procedure put to him by a US senator.

So just how bad was it? Well, Republican senator John Kennedy started by asking Petersen and four other nominees about their judicial experience. Kennedy said: “Have any of you not tried a case to verdict in a courtroom?”

Only Petersen, who was nominated by Trump to the US District Court for the District of Columbia, raised his hand. Kennedy then asked him if he had ever “tried a jury trial”. Peterson, a graduate of the University of Virginia Law School, responded: “I have not.”

The painful game of verbal ping-ping continued…

Kennedy: “Civil?”

Petersen: “No.”

Kennedy: “Criminal?”

Petersen: “No.”

Kennedy: “Bench?”

Petersen: “No.”

Kennedy: “State or federal court?”

Petersen: “I have not.”

Kennedy, a University of Oxford law grad and qualified lawyer, then tested Petersen’s knowledge of key US legal principles, with similar results.

Kennedy: “Do you know what a motion in limine is?”

Petersen: “I would probably not be able to give you a good definition.”

Kennedy: “Do you know what the Younger abstention doctrine is?”

Petersen: “I’ve heard of it, but again… [trails off]”

A clip of the exchange was posted on Twitter by Democratic Sheldon Whitehouse and has so far racked up a whopping 8.5 million views and 82,000 retweets.

“I had hoped my nearly two decades of public service might carry more weight than my two worst minutes on television,” Petersen has reportedly written to Trump in a letter. “However, I am no stranger to political realities, and I do not wish to be a continued distraction from the important work of your administration and the Senate.”

A spokesperson for the White House confirmed that Trump had accepted Petersen’s withdrawal but declined to comment further.

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“have any of you blogged in favour of the KKK?”




He asks them all that.



It was great viewing. Thought the interviewer was fantastically smooth in his questioning. It reminded me of a civil QC taking apart a witness in a surgical manner.



You’re easily impressed.



Just like your sister.



He must have gotten his law degree from Uni of Westminster or London Met








Corbyn. Symphathiser

He shouldn’t have even made it this far, let alone get to a position where he can withdraw. The USA under its fascist-adjacent President has become a joke. Sadly it’s a joke where the punchline is “they still have all the nukes”. Dark days ahead.



Cuckold. Sympathiser. your comments are stolen just like your identity. Filthy imposter.


Still trying to understand Republicans

Why are you obsessed with that word. I never understood why Trump supporters constantly think of cuckoldry, unless, like homophobic closeted homosexuals, they secretly dream of engaging in it themselves but can’t admit to it.



A real alpha type 1 male wouldn’t need an explanation due to being so clever and strong.

You are clearly a type 2 beta cuck.



Every day we stray further from God’s light


It is unfair to say he did not know basic questions of law. He didn’t know basic questions of procedural law, which is quite common for Circuit Judge nominees (see the two most recent nominees answer in a similar fashion).

The difference here is that Petersen was up for a District Judgeship who actually tries cases. Perhaps Petersen should have been put up for a Circuit, which is more in line with his quasi-appellate work at the FEC, but it is not that difficult for a DJ to learn basic procedural rules. It is not as if we expect judges to be an expert on each area of law, without counsel’s assistance and without researching the topic in-depth. Each dispute is going to bring up a completely novel issue which will require research.

I think Petersen was a decent nominee.


Corbyn. Symphathiser

You are wrong.



You’re an imposter, CUCKOLD. SYMPATHISER.



I look forward to hearing the reasons why I am wrong.


Corbyn. Symphathiser

It’s really rather simple. You claim he was a decent nominee. He withdrew, so even Petersen himself doesn’t think he’s up to the task, i.e. he isn’t a decent nominee. And he’s right: he isn’t a decent nominee.



I presume he knew his own qualifications before he accepted the nomination and was confident he was up to scratch. I don’t imagine Kennedy’s questions opened his eyes to the obvious true.

He withdrew because of the political pressure from the media in articles such as this. Ill-informed people, who are not legal specialists nor conversant in the US nomination procedure, passing judgment on his abilities. In reality, there are people being appointed to higher courts who are just as qualified as him, i.e. highly experienced.

Interestingly, he was rated Qualified by the ABA and there were other nominees being interviewed at the same time as him (out of shot) who were rated Not Qualified. Really interesting that failed barristers from Legal Cheek know more than ABA. #megacringe


“with respect, I am sure that you already know the answer to that question for each of the candidates, based on our resumes”

That reply would have turned the tables. It is possible, at that point, that the questioner would have been a busted flush.

Still, Trump will get the better of the situation, I expect.


Corbyn. Symphathiser

In almost every job interview you will be asked questions based on your CV. Getting in the face of your interviewer and saying “urgh, look at my CV” isn’t a great way to go about getting a job. It really is astonishing that this needs explaining.



It is political Grandstanding comrade. The questioner knew the answers, he just wanted to belittle Trump. So much the better if he can do so on TV.

Your explanation is wrong. It makes you look like a pen pusher, rather than a player.

The problem was that the nominee did not see it coming. If I’d have been in the nominee’s corner, the questioner would have had to have a plan b, or be a busted flush, as my post shows.


Corbyn. Symphathiser

It’s very probable that Senator Kennedy did know the answer to his questions; nevertheless, they need to be asked. This is how the US political system works.

“So much the better if he can do so on TV” is a strange thing to say: members of Congress know they are on TV all the time. They understand that C-SPAN exists. Hopefully now you do as well.

Additionally, Senator Kennedy is a Republican who has voted for all of Trump’s measures. If he’s trying to ‘show up’ the President he’s not doing so very well. The conclusion therefore is that he was just doing his job.

I don’t know what you mean by “a player”, but, funnily enough – and it is frustrating that I need to explain this as well, but here we are – governments have rules, they need to be obeyed. It’s unacceptable for ANY HR manager at any company not to do their due diligence in recruiting someone, so why you think this can or should be excused in the US Senate because you personally like Petersen is bizarre.

Petersen not seeing questions which as a whole amount to “are you capable of doing this coming” is a problem for him I agree. But it would be a bigger problem for anyone who had him as a judge if this unqualified chancer had been approved. Your post doesn’t “show” anything – it’s a rambling speculation.

Once more, in a job interview, you need to answer questions. Saying “I don’t want to answer these questions, do the work yourself” in any job will get you shown the door pretty quickly. You seem to think that Petersen should be given an exemption because you like him.

You are wrong.



No. I am correct. Kennedy does not want him as a Judge. That is why he is trying to knock him to the canvas in the first round. He is signalling his displeasure to Trump. It is on TV, so it is a strong signal.

I know that being a Judge is easy. So does Trump. I would be surprised if Petersen could not do it, if Trump thinks he can.

I don’t know of Petersen personally. But I know about grandstanding.

Your comments about interviews and hr managers and rules are for penpushers. They are obvious.


Corbyn. Sympathiser

Senator Kennedy was asking Petersen what his basic qualifications were. Petersen came up short. Kennedy votes to confirm Trump’s other woefully unqualified judicial appointments, so where you’re getting your narrative of “Senator Kennedy, Rebel Republican” from I can’t say. Petersen was “knocked to the canvas” in the ‘first round’ because he was a stunningly weak candidate.

His judgement is famously shoddy – just look at all his little friends who are pleading guilty! – so why you would trust him on this is beyond me.

Yes, it is obvious that people should be interviewed for jobs. That’s why it happened in this case. And in this case, the candidate was found wanting.

Your distain for due process and qualified judges speaks to a deep sense of authoritarianism. Please resist it.



Triggered Trumpy doesn’t know how to watch a critical news segment without writing a dementia riddled tirade of nonsense on twitter immediately afterwards so I’m not sure why you think he’d know who would be a good judge.



Corbyn San, Kennedy is not asking him about his qualifications. He is posturing with some questions about procedures and trial experience which even a legal cheek reader would know from previous blogs that this candidate is not going to be able to answer.

Had k asked some questions about judgement quality e.g. some scenario questions p would obviously have fared better. K cannot let p put up a good showing because he disapproves of him.

Trump is very popular. If k opposed him on policy K would likely be de selected next time he is up for election.

My opinion of judges is grounded in JAG Griffiths the politics of the judiciary and years of practice. It is an easy job.


Corbyn. Symphathiser

Asking a nominee about his experience is hardly “posturing”. Again, Senator Kennedy is a Republican who votes with Trump – he voted for the calamity of a tax bill that passed the Senate last night. Seems like if he wanted to show up Trump then that would have been a golden opportunity, but he didn’t take it. Your speculation on Senator Kennedy’s motives is totally beside the point.

Trump is not popular. He has the worst approval ratings of any President this early into their first term and, lest we forget, he lost the popular vote by nearly three million votes. Even Fox News viewers are losing faith in their roly-poly messiah.

I don’t really care where you’re getting your opinion of ‘being a judge is easy’ from. I doubt there would be so many empty judge positions (as reported in LC) if it were that easy to do.

Finally, I am not Japanese.


Phillip Phagharty-Whetpance

But are you turning Japanese?

I really think so.


Corbyn. Symphathiser

I live in the United Kingdom. I have no plans to acquire Japanese citizenship.



This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.


The 2.11 am post says the ABA approved him. It was my understanding also that he would not have passed the sift if he was not actually qualified.

If K had wanted to give p a fair crack, he would have asked different questions.

What makes you think you would be a good judge when you lack the procedural expertise of counsel ?, for example.

K cannot ask that and be confident that p will fail, dont you see that ?

The reason there are judicial vacancies is not because it is hard Corbyn comrade, it is because it is difficult to find intelligent people who, when faced with what the truth demands from one advocate, will prefer to sign off on the judgment that power demands from the other. You can rely on the dynastic middle class to do the right thing, less so anyone else.

The doyen Karl Marx observed that the bourgeoisie would have difficulty filling all the positions they need to, in the end, because the morals of the bourgeoisie are difficult to live with – if I am not mistaken.

If you have ever been a Judge or drafted documents for them such as skeleton arguments, chronologies and so on, you would realise that as bureaucratic positions go, it is a very easy ride. Easier than a paralegal, a trainee, the solicitor with day to day conduct and junior or senior counsel certainly. It is probably easier than being the court clerk too.

It is a shame that I have to explain these things to a sympathiser of the leader of a labour movement dedicated to the many, not the few 😉


Corbyn. Symphathiser

Sober up.



Whether I am drunk sober tired or full of beans, that is the state of play.


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