Senate Judiciary Committee hearing room in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Feb. 11, 2014. Photo by Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM.

Matthew Petersen, a nominee to be a judge at the federal district court in Washington, D.C., is a former chief counsel to a Senate committee and a Federal Election Commission commissioner, which is why his failure to answer basic legal questions in a hearing this week made headlines.

Petersen, nominated by President Donald Trump in September, was rated ”qualified” by the American Bar Association. Yet, faced with a pop quiz in his Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday from Sen. John Kennedy, R-Louisiana, Petersen was unable to answer basic legal questions. Asked to define a “motion in limine,” Petersen replied he couldn’t give a “good definition” in the moment. He flubbed Daubert standard, too.

A video of the exchange garnered more than three million views by Friday. 

The exchange provided fodder for Democrats and liberal advocacy groups who argue the Trump administration is not thoroughly vetting judicial nominees, who are appointed to lifetime positions and, at the district court level, are key gatekeepers in trials.

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