[Marxism] Satan's plan

Louis Proyect 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

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withdrawn after he was unable to answer basic questions during his 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 
Mr. Kennedy.

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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