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Two controversial federal judge nominees will not be confirmed, Senate Republican says

The Washington Post logoThe Washington Post 12/13/2017 Karoun Demirjian

Chuck Grassley wearing a suit and tie: Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa). © Rachel Mummey/For The Washington Post Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa). The Senate Judiciary Committee's top Republican said Wednesday that two of President Trump's nominees for open seats on the federal bench will not be confirmed, just a day after urging the White House to "reconsider" them.

Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) said that based on his discussions with the White House, the nominations of Jeff Mateer and Brett Talley would not move forward through the confirmation process. The decision comes after reports that both nominees made public comments celebrating groups or policies that were discriminatory.

The decision is a significant interruption of the Trump administration's plans to have the Senate swiftly confirm its judicial nominees, often over the objections of Democrats complaining that certain picks are too biased or too inexperienced for the federal bench.

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Mateer was nominated to serve as a federal judge in the Eastern District of Texas, while Talley was nominated for a federal district court seat in Alabama. Last month, the committee approved Talley's nomination on a party-line vote, despite the American Bar Association's finding that he was "not qualified" to be a federal judge. The full Senate had yet to confirm his nomination.

Following that vote, reports identified Talley as the author of an online comment in 2011 defending "the first KKK." According to other reports, Mateer in 2015 said he believed transgender children were "Satan's spawn" and defended a judge's right to support certain kinds of discrimination, including on the basis of sexual orientation.

Grassley said that neither nominee had disclosed these comments during their vetting processes. He also complained Tuesday that Talley had not disclosed to the committee during his interview that he is married to Ann Donaldson, the chief of staff for White House counsel Don McGahn.

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Talley has practiced law for three years and has never tried a case. He also has written horror books and has participated in ghost-hunting activities.

Grassley stopped short Wednesday of condemning the White House's vetting process, calling it "very very thorough already."

"But I don't know how you can vet, be absolutely 100 percent sure, of everybody — particularly in the social networking world that we have," Grassley added. "I don't know how you get everything off the social network, I don't know how you get it."

The committee has not received Mateer's paperwork, a spokesman said.

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