Donald Trump’s quiet reshaping of America’s courts suffered an unexpected impediment on Tuesday. After defending Trump’s uniquely unqualified judicial picks, Senator Chuck Grassley, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, appeared to reverse his position and reportedly encouraged the White House to withdraw the nominations of two judges.
Grassley, who tepidly endorsed Trump during the campaign, told CNN that he urged the White House to “reconsider” the federal bench nominations of Brett Talley and Jeff Mateer.
Talley, nominated to the federal bench in Alabama, is a third-year lawyer who has never tried a case. Before clerking for Alabama’s district court, Talley pursued ghost hunting (really) and worked as a political speechwriter. He also defended the “first KKK” on University of Alabama forums in 2011.
Mateer, who currently serves as the first assistant attorney general in Texas, rather infamously postulated in 2015 that transgender children were proof of “Satan’s plan” working. Mateer also wore his anti-LGBTQ discrimination like a badge of honor during another set of speeches at the National Religious Liberties Conference in 2015.
Talley was unanimously deemed “not qualified” by the American Bar Association while Mateer was deemed “qualified.” (That’s not as good as it sounds; as the Dallas Morning News noted, it means that “at least two and as many as five lawyers on the ABA’s 15-member screening committee voted to declare [Mateer] ‘unqualified.’”
“I’ve advised the White House they ought to reconsider. I would advise the White House not to proceed,” Grassley said on Tuesday. Previously, Grassley had defended Talley’s inexperience in a letter to senators on the Judiciary Committee.
Talley’s defense of the Klan reportedly pushed Grassley over the edge. “Revelations of Talley’s statements surfaced only after he was reported out of the Judiciary Committee,” Grassley’s spokesperson, Taylor Foy, told The Hill.
Talley’s nomination was advanced by the Senate Judiciary Committee. He now awaits confirmation by the full Senate. Mateer’s nomination has yet to receive committee approval.