19 Dec 2017

Trump judicial nominee pulls out

3:36 pm on 19 December 2017

US President Donald Trump's latest judiciary nominee has withdrawn his name after failing to answer basic legal questions at his Senate confirmation hearing.

Matthew Petersen

Matthew Petersen Photo: AFP

Video of Matthew Petersen's embarrassing encounter went viral.

"It has become clear to me over the last few days that my nomination has become a distraction," Mr Petersen wrote in a letter.

Mr Petersen was nominated as a federal judge in the District of Columbia.

Mr Trump had accepted his offer to withdraw, the White House said.

Mr Peterson, a Republican member of the Federal Election Commission, is the latest of Mr Trump's conservative judicial nominations to fail.

At the hearing, Mr Peterson stumbled over questions asked by Republican Senator John Kennedy.

Senator Kennedy starts by asking Mr Petersen and the four other nominees who appeared with him: "Have any of you not tried a case to verdict in a courtroom?"

Mr Petersen raised his hand, and also answered 'no' to subsequent questions about whether he had tried jury, civil, criminal or bench trials.

"Have you ever taken a deposition by yourself?" Mr Kennedy continued.

"Uh, I believe no," Mr Petersen said.

Mr Kennedy, a Louisiana senator and a former law professor, who still fully supports Mr Trump, openly criticised Mr Petersen in a later TV interview.

"Just because you've seen My Cousin Vinny doesn't qualify you to be a federal judge," Mr Kennedy told local station WWL-TV, referring to the 1992 comedy film about a novice lawyer.

Mr Kennedy told the station that Mr Trump called him after learning of the exchange and agreed that Mr Peterson was too inexperienced.

Mr Peterson, who became the third of Mr Trump's judicial picks to flounder in just a week, said: "I had hoped that my nearly two decades of public service might carry more weight than my two worst minutes on television."

Despite recent setbacks, Mr Trump has made progress filling other judicial vacancies with conservative judges and notably restored the Supreme Court's conservative majority with the appointment of Justice Neil Gorsuch.