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

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By Thomas Connelly on

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put forward by President Donald Trump, who was widely criticised for struggling to answer basic legal questions, has withdrawn from the race.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