- New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker posted emails from Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s work in the George W. Bush administration online, prompting a massive fight in the Judiciary Committee.
- Republicans said Booker was breaking rules and faced severe penalties, including expulsion from the Senate.
- The former Bush attorney tasked with clearing the emails and documents related to Kavanaugh said the emails Booker released had already been cleared for public viewing.
WASHINGTON – Democratic Sen. Cory Booker commandeered the third day of Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings on Thursday to release confidential documents pertaining to Kavanaugh’s time working in the George W. Bush White House.
But after his grand display, which could have resulted in expulsion from the Senate under its maximum penalty, it became clear that Booker may have not broken any rules, as the documents were cleared for release Wednesday night.
Thursday morning as the hearing just began, Booker told the committee he would be releasing emails from Kavanaugh pertaining to racial profiling, despite them being classified as committee confidential.
“I openly invite and accept the consequences of releasing that email right now,” Booker said. “The emails are being withheld from the public have nothing to do with national security.”
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn then accused Booker of blustering ahead of a potential 2020 presidential run by noting the release of such documents could result in his expulsion from the Senate.
“Running for president is no excuse for violating the rules of the Senate or of confidentiality of the documents that we are privy to,” he said. “This is no different from the senator deciding to release classified information that is deemed classified by the executive branch because you happen to disagree with the classification decision. That is irresponsible and outrageous.”
“No senator deserves to sit on this committee, or serve in the Senate in my view, if they decide to be a law unto themselves and willingly flout the rules of the Senate and the determination of confidentiality and classification,” Cornyn added. “That is irresponsible and conduct unbecoming of a senator.”
Booker fired back, “Bring it,” as his Democratic colleagues stood by him in what he described as “probably the closest I’ll ever have in my life to an ‘I am Spartacus’ moment.”
The Kavanaugh emails, which Booker’s staff then posted online for the public to read, showed the Supreme Court nominee’s opposition to racial profiling for airport security screenings post-September 11.
The emails were already cleared for release
Booker appeared to have committed a grave offence that comes with a severe penalty. But later on Thursday, Bill Burck, the former attorney for President Bush, said in a statement that everything Booker released was already cleared before the Thursday hearing even began.
“We cleared the documents last night shortly after Senator Booker’s staff asked us to.,” Burck said. “We were surprised to learn about Senator Booker’s histrionics this morning because we had already told him he could use the documents publicly. In fact, we have said yes to every request made by the Senate Democrats to make documents public.”
Burck’s statement ran in direct contrast to what happened in the committee, where Booker and other Democrats stood behind the breach of rules. However, Republicans on the committee did not note the emails were already OK for release during the tense exchange with Booker and Democrats.
But Booker spokeswoman Kristin Lynch doubled down, telling Business Insider that “Senate Republicans are doing everything they can to distract from their sham process to rush through a Supreme Court justice who will overturn Roe v. Wade, demolish the Affordable Care Act, and protect President Trump from being investigated.”
“Cory said this morning that he was releasing committee confidential documents, and that’s exactly what he’s done. Last night, he was admonished by Republicans for breaking the rules when he read from committee confidential documents. Cory and Senate Democrats were able to shame the committee into agreeing to make last night’s documents publicly available, and Cory publicly released those documents as well as other committee confidential documents today. And he’ll keep releasing them because Republicans are hiding Brett Kavanaugh’s record from the American people.”
While Booker has vowed to continue releasing documents, which might not yet be cleared for public view, it is embroiling the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has been at its most contentious in recent history during Kavanaugh’s marathon confirmation hearings.
Democrats have been fighting with Republicans over the release of certain documents from Kavanaugh’s tenure in the Bush administration for the duration of his confirmation process. With more than 100,000 various emails and writings still left to be sifted through by staffers for release, the fight could continue until Kavanaugh’s confirmation vote.
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