GOP Sen. Kennedy: Trump's nominee should have been able to answer my questions

Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., starred in a viral exchange this week after he repeatedly stumped one of President Trump’s judicial nominees with basic questions about the law.

But he said he was just asking questions the nominee, Matthew Peterson, should have been able to answer.

“I enthusiastically supported President Trump for president, and I still do. In the past year, I have supported nearly every one of President Trump’s picks, but I don’t blindly support them,” Kennedy said in a Friday statement to Yahoo News when asked whether he would support Peterson’s nomination for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

“I ask questions that I expect them to be able to answer,” he continued. “In doing so, I’m just doing my job. That’s why we have a Madisonian-inspired separation of powers. We need checks and balances so that we can serve the American people well.”

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UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 05: John Kennedy, Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate from Louisiana, greets fans at a tailgate party before a football game between the Louisiana State University and the University of Alabama in Baton Rouge, La., November 5, 2016. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 05: John Kennedy, Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate from Louisiana, greets fans at a tailgate party before a football game between the Louisiana State University and the University of Alabama in Baton Rouge, La., November 5, 2016. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 08: John Kennedy, Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate from Louisiana, greets a guest during an election night party at the White Oak Plantation in Baton Rouge, La., November 8, 2016. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 05: John Kennedy, Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate from Louisiana, greets fans at a tailgate party before a football game between the Louisiana State University and the University of Alabama in Baton Rouge, La., November 5, 2016. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Louisiana Treasurer and Republican Senate candidate John Kennedy speaks at a get-out-the-vote rally on December 9, 2016 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. US President-elect Donald Trump will speak at the event. / AFP / DON EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 05: John Kennedy, Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate from Louisiana, greets fans at a tailgate party before a football game between the Louisiana State University and the University of Alabama in Baton Rouge, La., November 5, 2016. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 08: John Kennedy, Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate from Louisiana, his wife Becky, and son Preston, appear on stage after Kennedy announced he advanced to a runoff election during an election night party at the White Oak Plantation in Baton Rouge, La., November 8, 2016. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
US President-elect Donald Trump (L) and Louisiana Treasurer and Republican Senate candidate John Kennedy wave at a get-out-the-vote rally on December 9, 2016 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. / AFP / DON EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
BATON ROUGE, LA - DECEMBER 10: U.S. Senate Republican candidate John Kennedy delivers a victory speech during an election party on December 10, 2016 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Kennedy's victory further strengthens the Republican's majority hold over the U.S. Senate. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Senator John Kennedy, a Republican from Louisiana, walks through the Senate Subway before a vote in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017. The year's most divisive fights in Congress are set to converge in a bitter partisan clash in December that could result in a U.S. government shutdown. Photographer: Zach Gibson/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Senator John Kennedy, a Republican from Louisiana, speaks to members of the media after a weekly GOP luncheon meeting at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said GOP members are optimistic that including the repeal of the individual mandate imposed by the Obamacare law in a tax overhaul would be helpful. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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In the Thursday exchange, given that he only had five minutes, Kennedy started by asking a panel of Trump’s nominees if they had never tried a case to verdict in a courtroom. Petersen raised his hand. Kennedy went on to ask simple questions about his experience in the courtroom.

Peterson acknowledged that he had never argued a motion or tried a case in state or federal court. He also testified that he has never taken a deposition by himself, and that the last time he read the Federal Rules of Evidence comprehensively was when he was in law school. He could not define or identify the Daubert standard (a measure for determining the admissibility of expert testimony), a motion in limine (a request that certain evidence may not be introduced), the Younger abstention doctrine (the ruling that federal courts have strong obligations to hear cases in their jurisdictions) or the Pullman abstention doctrine (a principle that federal courts should give state courts the first chance to interpret state law).

Video of the questioning spread across the Internet after Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., shared it on Twitter — describing it as “MUST WATCH.”

The Senate unanimously confirmed Peterson in 2008 to his current position — a commissioner on the FEC. Trump nominated Petersen to serve as a U.S. district court judge on Sept. 7, 2017.

Both Petersen and Kennedy received juris doctors from the University of Virginia School of Law.

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