Toobin: What excruciating video of judicial nominee reveals

The video is excruciating to watch.President Trump nominated Matthew Petersen, a member of the Federal Electio...

Posted: Dec 16, 2017 4:20 PM
Updated: Dec 16, 2017 4:20 PM

The video is excruciating to watch.

President Trump nominated Matthew Petersen, a member of the Federal Election Commission, to serve a lifetime appointment on the federal district court in Washington, D.C. He is being questioned -- politely but insistently -- by John Kennedy, a Republican Senator from Louisiana.

The subject, at first, is Petersen's experience in litigation, or, as it turns out, his lack thereof. Petersen admits he has never tried a case, never argued a motion, never taken a deposition by himself -- basically that he has never done any of the tasks that are crucial to the work of the courts.

Kennedy then moves on to Petersen's knowledge of the law, which turns out to be similarly lacking. Petersen doesn't know about the Daubert standard (which covers the admissibility of expert testimony), motions in limine (which attempt to restrict evidence heard in trials), or the abstention doctrines (which cover the relationship between federal and state law).

The Senate may or may not approve Petersen, even after this embarrassing performance. He has close connections to Republicans in both the Senate and the White House, and used to work with Don McGahn, the White House counsel.

But the real message of the video is about the unsung successes of the Trump administration and Republican-controlled Senate. All through the last two years of Barack Obama's presidency, Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, bottled up the President's nominations to fill federal judgeships.

Most famously, McConnell refused to allow consideration of Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. But McConnell's blockade considered the lower federal courts as well, leaving dozens of vacancies for the new President to fill.

And President Trump has filled them, with the enthusiastic concurrence of the Republican majority in the Senate. Because of all the vacancies, Trump is on the fastest pace to fill judgeships since Richard Nixon, two generations ago. And Trump has filled these seats with highly partisan conservatives.

Most of them, to be sure, have also been highly qualified and knowledgeable, like Neil Gorsuch, who was confirmed for the Scalia seat earlier this year. In recent months, the quality control on the nominations seems to have slipped.

Embarrassments like Petersen, and Brett Talley (who also never tried a case) and Jeff Mateer (who called transgender children part of "Satan's plan") have reached the Senate, and Talley and Mateer have already been withdrawn. (A similar fate probably awaits Petersen.)

But the larger point is that judicial conservatives have made huge progress during the Trump presidency. Since most federal cases never reach the Supreme Court, these judges will be able to shape the law that affects millions of people. Their agendas are clear: anti-abortion rights, anti-gay rights, opposition to affirmative action, limitations on voting rights and lower barriers between church and state.

Petersen may have had a bad day in the Senate, but the conservative cause is otherwise flourishing in the courts.

Terre Haute
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 73°
Robinson
Clear
70° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 70°
Indianapolis
Few Clouds
73° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 73°
Rockville
Clear
69° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 69°
Casey
Clear
71° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 71°
Brazil
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 73°
Marshall
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 73°
Mostly sunny with a low chance of storms tonight.
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

WTHI Events

 

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Confirmed Cases: 204023

Reported Deaths: 7932
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Cook1147244951
Lake13144450
DuPage12693525
Kane10100305
Will9692348
St. Clair4289162
Winnebago3835134
McHenry3335114
Madison296985
Kankakee185769
Rock Island183138
Peoria180737
Champaign173719
Kendall144323
Sangamon139135
Unassigned1381211
DeKalb97032
LaSalle91028
Boone76823
Jackson75520
McLean73015
Macon72123
Tazewell6539
Adams6077
Coles56421
Williamson4997
Randolph4977
Clinton45417
Ogle4295
Whiteside38417
Grundy3685
Morgan3539
Knox3441
Stephenson3406
Monroe33913
Union33923
Jefferson32020
Iroquois27613
Henry2741
Bureau2624
Vermilion2592
Cass25211
Franklin2221
Macoupin2223
Effingham2081
Warren1960
Perry1933
Lee1911
Logan1871
Montgomery1797
Marion1720
Woodford1713
McDonough14915
Christian1464
Jersey1432
Livingston1403
Jo Daviess1391
Saline1362
Douglas1353
Moultrie1030
Pulaski1011
Shelby942
Clark912
White800
Hancock761
Johnson760
Mercer764
Fayette733
Carroll724
Wayne722
Bond693
Greene690
Washington691
Piatt660
Cumberland613
Jasper617
Mason600
Menard600
Ford572
Lawrence550
Gallatin512
Wabash490
Massac430
Fulton420
De Witt390
Alexander370
Crawford350
Marshall350
Edgar340
Hamilton330
Clay320
Pike320
Scott320
Edwards240
Richland240
Henderson210
Hardin180
Schuyler180
Brown150
Putnam130
Calhoun120
Pope110
Stark70
Out of IL10

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Confirmed Cases: 78632

Reported Deaths: 3113
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion16437734
Lake7952283
Elkhart505191
Allen4161164
St. Joseph376683
Hamilton3033104
Vanderburgh212215
Hendricks1978109
Johnson1819119
Cass18139
Porter141539
Clark135250
Tippecanoe129312
Madison106266
LaPorte96730
Howard94865
Kosciusko87812
Bartholomew86747
Floyd86150
Marshall80523
Monroe78432
Vigo77913
Delaware77752
Dubois72912
Noble71729
Boone71646
Hancock70239
Warrick61230
Jackson6075
Shelby57328
LaGrange57110
Grant53330
Dearborn52828
Morgan50135
Henry46720
Clinton4624
Wayne41010
White38411
Montgomery36721
Harrison36524
Lawrence35927
Decatur35332
Putnam3318
Daviess29620
Scott28110
Miami2792
Jasper2662
Greene25934
Franklin25116
Gibson2464
DeKalb2444
Jennings23312
Ripley2218
Steuben2173
Carroll2135
Fayette2097
Perry18913
Orange18824
Posey1840
Starke1817
Wabash1805
Wells1802
Fulton1752
Jefferson1752
Knox1711
Sullivan1631
Whitley1626
Tipton15516
Washington1531
Clay1505
Spencer1403
Randolph1345
Huntington1303
Adams1242
Newton12110
Owen1131
Rush1004
Jay970
Pulaski841
Brown762
Fountain762
Pike670
Blackford662
Benton640
Ohio636
Vermillion620
Switzerland590
Parke581
Martin530
Crawford500
Union420
Warren251
Unassigned0207