Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., caught the media’s attention this week after grilling one of President Biden’s judicial nominees who was unable to answer basic questions about the Constitution. But that’s not the first time a nominee has been scorched by Kennedy, a senator who scrutinizes even-handedly.
In 2017, the firebrand senator from Louisiana made political waves after he brutally questioned former President Trump’s nominee for a federal judgeship.
Matthew Spencer Petersen, a lawyer and former commissioner on the Federal Election Commission, was nominated to serve as a district court judge in Washington, D.C., but his nomination was ultimately withdrawn after he had difficulty answering basic questions about the law.
In the Senate Judiciary Hearing in December 2017, Kennedy grilled Petersen on the “Daubert standard,” which has to do with expert witness testimony, and the definition of a “motion in limine,” which has to do with the introduction of evidence.
Petersen acknowledged he had never tried a case or argued a motion in court. He said he last read the federal rules of evidence in law school.
The exchange, which The Associated Press called “a public humiliation” of Petersen, garnered over 8 million views on social media.
Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island posted video of the exchange at the time on his Twitter account, labeling it “MUST WATCH.”
“Republican @SenJohnKennedy asks one of @realDonaldTrump’s US District Judge nominees basic questions of law & he can’t answer a single one. Hoo-boy,” Whitehouse wrote.
The Associated Press reported that Kennedy received a phone call from Trump after the hearing.
“He said, ‘Look, Kennedy, do your job. I’m not upset or angry. I’ll never criticize you for doing what you think is right,’” Kennedy recalled about the conversation.
Within days of the hearing, Petersen withdrew his nomination.