Last week Matthew Petersen was on his way to becoming a judge on the US District Court for the District of Columbia. Then Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse tweeted a video of Petersen at his Judiciary Committee hearing failing to answer a series of basic legal questions from Republican Sen. John Kennedy, and suddenly the wheels came off. That video went viral, collecting more than 8.3 million views, and on Monday Petersen withdrew his name from consideration, the Washington Post reports. In a letter sent to the president, Petersen wrote that his nomination had become a "distraction." "I had hoped that my nearly two decades of public service might carry more weight than my two worst minutes on television," he wrote.
As late as Friday, the White House was still supporting Petersen's nomination, saying opponents of the president's were "trying to distract from the record-setting success the President has had on judicial nominations." But over the weekend, Kennedy said Trump called him and told him to do his job as he saw fit, Politico reports. "[The president] said, 'Kennedy, when some of my guys send somebody over who's not qualified, you do your job,'" Kennedy said. "And I said, 'Thank you, Mr. President.' And I intend to do that." Kennedy also called Petersen a "really smart" and "decent guy" but said he was simply unqualified for the position. "He has no litigation experience. And my job on the Judiciary Committee is to catch him," he said. "I would strongly suggest he not give up his day job."