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.

West Lafayette
Clear
48° wxIcon
Hi: 67° Lo: 40°
Feels Like: °
Kokomo
Clear
42° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 38°
Rensselaer
Clear
41° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 41°
Fowler
Clear
41° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 41°
Williamsport
Clear
42° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 38°
Feels Like: 38°
Crawfordsville
Clear
38° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 40°
Feels Like: 38°
Frankfort
Clear
41° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 38°
Feels Like: 38°
Delphi
Clear
45° wxIcon
Hi: 67° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 41°
Monticello
Clear
45° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 41°
Logansport
Clear
45° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 45°
Below normal temperatures & patches of frost in the north & northeast.
WLFI Radar
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 108646

Reported Deaths: 3478
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion20341757
Lake10013312
Elkhart6198106
St. Joseph586796
Allen5785198
Hamilton4600109
Vanderburgh318126
Hendricks2607120
Monroe224336
Johnson2241122
Tippecanoe211313
Clark205056
Porter197843
Cass19209
Delaware180159
Vigo169621
Madison153075
LaPorte134837
Floyd127961
Howard125163
Kosciusko116717
Bartholomew113257
Warrick104134
Marshall97423
Boone93846
Dubois92118
Hancock89242
Noble86432
Grant85132
Henry73424
Jackson7259
Wayne72214
Morgan68038
Shelby65529
LaGrange62811
Daviess61627
Dearborn61428
Clinton59111
Harrison54824
Putnam5098
Lawrence49928
Montgomery49421
White47114
Knox4659
Decatur44739
Gibson4344
DeKalb42511
Miami4202
Greene40935
Fayette40413
Jasper3732
Scott34410
Steuben3447
Sullivan32612
Jennings30512
Franklin29225
Posey2900
Clay2855
Orange27924
Ripley2768
Carroll26713
Wabash2547
Washington2491
Whitley2456
Wells2422
Starke2387
Jefferson2363
Adams2303
Fulton2292
Tipton21522
Huntington2073
Randolph2047
Perry20014
Spencer1984
Jay1640
Newton16411
Owen1621
Martin1560
Rush1484
Pike1331
Vermillion1210
Fountain1152
Pulaski1121
Blackford1072
Crawford980
Brown933
Parke902
Benton880
Union760
Ohio757
Switzerland660
Warren381
Unassigned0225

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events