[Marxism] Satan's plan
lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Dec 19 08:42:58 MST 2017
NY Times, Dec. 19 2017
Poor Vetting Sinks Trump’s Nominees for Federal Judge
By CHARLIE SAVAGE
WASHINGTON — One of President Trump’s federal judge nominees has
withdrawn after he was unable to answer basic questions during his
confirmation hearing about the courtroom process, showed little
familiarity with federal trial rules and acknowledged that he had never
prosecuted or defended a case.
A clip of the exchange between the nominee, Matthew Petersen, and
Senator John N. Kennedy, Republican of Louisiana, became a viral
sensation and drew ridicule across the internet.
Mr. Petersen’s withdrawal over the weekend was the third nomination by
Mr. Trump to collapse in recent days. Last week, the White House pulled
back two other Federal District Court nominees who had attracted
controversy, Jeff Mateer and Brett Talley. Mr. Talley also had scant
trial experience and apparently defended the early Ku Klux Klan under a
pseudonym on a sports website. Mr. Mateer once described transgender
children as proof of “Satan’s plan.”
The departures were an embarrassment for the White House, which was
responsible for vetting the prospective jurists, at the end of what has
otherwise been a year of success on judicial nominations for Mr. Trump.
He has rapidly begun reshaping higher levels of the federal bench by
appointing deeply conservative judges.
Following a strategy outlined by Donald F. McGahn II, the White House
counsel, Mr. Trump and the Republican majority in the Senate moved
swiftly to install Justice Neil M. Gorsuch in a vacant Supreme Court
seat and then appointed a dozen appeals court judges — a modern record
for a president this early in his tenure.
But the energy and attention that Mr. Trump’s legal team spent on
filling vacancies in the upper ranks of the judiciary with powerhouse
conservatives may have left less time for vetting nominees for the
Federal District Court, where ideology is less important.
In those courts, judges run trials rather than set legal precedent, and
home state senators traditionally wield far greater influence over the
process of filling district court benches than higher courts.
Mr. Trump has nominated about three dozen district court judges, but
only six have been appointed. Several of his trial court nominees have
come under fire for lack of experience, out-of-the-mainstream statements
or poor preparation for the confirmation process, fueling a competing
narrative that Mr. Trump is putting up unqualified nominees.
In a statement, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the ranking
Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said Mr. Petersen was “clearly not
qualified” and that there was “no room for on-the-job training” on the
bench in the nation’s capital, where he had been nominated to serve.
“Three Trump judicial nominees are now reported to have withdrawn over
the past week,” she said. “This is a clear signal that the White House
isn’t properly vetting nominees but instead counting on Senate
Republicans to jam them through with minimal review.”
At last week’s hearing, Mr. Kennedy grilled Mr. Petersen about basic
legal issues and procedures that trial judges routinely deal with,
including pretrial motions on whether to exclude types of evidence and
standards regarding expert witnesses.
Mr. Petersen, whose legal experience is mainly in administrative law
rather than litigation, was unable to answer one question after another.
He acknowledged that he was not particularly familiar with the details
of the federal rules of civil and criminal procedure.
“I understand the challenge that would be ahead of me if I were
fortunate enough to become a district court judge,” he eventually told
The painful line of questioning gained notoriety after Senator Sheldon
Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, posted a clip of that questioning
on Twitter captioned “MUST WATCH.”
Mr. Petersen is a commissioner on the Federal Election Commission, where
his tenure overlapped with that of Mr. McGahn, a former F.E.C.
commissioner; the two were seen as allies on the panel. Mr. Kennedy
butted heads with Mr. McGahn after the White House pushed through its
preferred appeals court nominee for a Louisiana-based seat, Kyle Duncan,
even though Mr. Kennedy did not favor him.
In a letter to Mr. Trump that was dated on Saturday and released by the
White House on Monday, Mr. Petersen thanked the president but said he
was withdrawing from consideration.
“I had hoped that my nearly two decades of public service might carry
more weight than my two worst minutes on television,” Mr. Petersen
wrote. “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.”
Mr. Kennedy made no apologies for grilling a nominee by a president of
his own party.
“Just because you’ve seen 'My Cousin Vinny' doesn’t qualify you to be a
federal judge,” Mr. Kennedy told a New Orleans television station on
Monday before Mr. Petersen’s letter was released.
The White House did not comment. The move followed its decision last
week to retract the nominations of Mr. Talley to be a judge in Alabama
and of Mr. Mateer to be such a judge in Texas, following a warning by
Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the Republican chairman of the
Judiciary Committee, that they were unlikely to be confirmed.
The committee had already approved Mr. Talley on a party-line vote and
sent his nomination to the floor, dismissing a rare unanimous finding by
the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on the Judiciary that
Mr. Talley was not qualified to be a judge.
A ghost hunter and horror novelist, Mr. Talley, 36, worked for years as
a political aide and speechwriter to Republican politicians. He had some
legal experience but little involving trials.
Mr. Talley nevertheless won preliminary approval from the Judiciary
Committee’s Republican majority to be a judge. But as he was awaiting a
Senate floor vote, it further emerged that Mr. Talley had not disclosed
that he is married to Mr. McGahn’s chief of staff. Nor did he disclose
that he had apparently written thousands of pseudonymous posts on a
University of Alabama sports fan website, including the one defending
the early Ku Klux Klan.
Mr. Trump had announced his nomination of Mr. Mateer, a first assistant
attorney general in Texas who was strongly supported by Senator Ted
Cruz, Republican of Texas, in September. But soon after that
announcement, it emerged that Mr. Mateer — an outspoken proponent of
religious liberty — had made a series of incendiary speeches, such as
labeling same-sex marriage a forerunner of “disgusting” polygamy and
On Monday, after Mr. Petersen’s withdrawal became public, Mr. Kennedy
praised Mr. Petersen as a good, smart, and honest person — just not one
with the experience to be a trial judge.
Stressing that lower-court nominees are selected by White House staff,
and not by presidents personally, Mr. Kennedy said that he had spoken by
phone on Friday with Mr. Trump, and the president had encouraged the
senator to do his job in vetting nominees.
“Our job on Judiciary is to catch any mistakes that have been made,” Mr.
Kennedy said, adding, "I believe that the president is sending some
great nominees, but there are some that have been not so great.”
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