By Sarah Gray
December 18, 2017

President Donald Trump’s judicial nominee for federal court in Washington, D.C. withdrew on Monday after a video from his confirmation hearing went viral over the weekend in which he struggled to answer basic legal questions.

Matthew Petersen, a member of the Federal Election Commission, had trouble answering questions from Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) about taking depositions and arguing a motion before state or federal court.

Last week, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) shared a video of the questioning on Twitter with the commentary “hoo-boy.” As of Monday, the post had over 81,000 retweets.

And while there is some debate, according to the New York Times, about whether trial experience should disqualify a judicial nominee, many in the legal community voiced concern about Petersen’s answers. For example, he could not define the Daubert standard during the hearing (the assessment of whether an expert’s scientific testimony is sound and admissible in a case).

Though the White House initially stood by Petersen, on Friday, by Monday things had changed course. White House spokesperson Raj Shah confirmed to the Washington Post that President Trump had accepted Petersen’s withdrawal.

“While I am honored to have been nominated for this position, it has become clear to me over the past few days that my nomination has become a distraction — and that is not fair to you or your Administration,” according to a letter submitted this weekend by Petersen to the Trump administration. “I had hoped my nearly two decades of public service might carry more weight than my two worst minutes on television. 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.”

This is the third of Trump’s judicial nominee to withdraw in recent weeks; nominations for Jeff Mateer and Brett Talley were recently withdrawn due to a myriad of issues. The American Bar Association called Talley “unanimously unqualified” for the bench, while Mateer had referred negatively about transgender children, NBC News reported.

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