Trump's district court nominee withdraws after struggling to answer basic legal questions

PHOTO: In this July 10, 2008 file photo, Commissioner Matthew Spencer Petersen is in a meeting of the Federal Election Commission to elect a chairman and vice chairman. PlayScott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images, FILE
WATCH Judicial nominee struggles to answer basic legal questions

After struggling to answer basic legal questions during his confirmation hearing last week, President Donald Trump’s nominee for a U.S. District Court Matthew Spencer Petersen has withdrawn his name from consideration.

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"Mr. Petersen has withdrawn his nomination and the president has accepted," a White House official told ABC News.

Petersen’s withdrawal comes after a video went viral of him fumbling through a line of questioning on points of basic legal procedure by Republican Sen. John Kennedy during a hearing on Wednesday.

As recently as Friday evening, the White House expressed continued confidence in Petersen’s credentials for the post, with White House spokesman Hogan Gidley citing Petersen’s years of experience at the Federal Election Commission and characterizing the criticism against him as a political attack.

"It's not surprising that the president's political opponents and some members of the media keep trying to distract from the record-setting success that the president has had on judicial nominations," Gidley said on Friday.

On Monday, a White House official declined to say whether Petersen’s withdrawal was requested by the White House or if it was first volunteered.

But in a letter to the president on Saturday, Petersen cited the distraction surrounding his nomination as his reason for withdrawing.

"I had hoped that my nearly two decades of public service might carry more weight than my two worst minutes on television," Petersen wrote. “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.”

In addition to Petersen, two other district court nominees were also recently withdrawn.

The news of Petersen’s withdrawal is a dark spot on what has been a record-setting year for the Trump administration in confirming appellate judges. On Thursday, the 12th circuit court judge was confirmed.

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