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Booker says he will release committee confidential documents

Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerBig Dem donors stick to sidelines as 2020 approaches Sanders: Trump setting 'terrible example' for our children Sanders, Harris set to criss-cross Iowa MORE (D-N.J.) on Thursday said he will release "committee confidential" documents that have not been cleared for public release, escalating a furious debate between Republicans and Democrats over papers related to Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh's public record.

"I am right now, before your process is finished, I am going to release the email about racial profiling, and I understand the penalty comes with potential ousting from the Senate," Booker said at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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Booker's announcement, made in a statement at the beginning of the third day of Kavanaugh's confirmation hearings and as part of a discussion with a frustrated Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGOP plays hardball in race to confirm Trump's court picks Trump officials ratchet up drug pricing fight Dems angered by GOP plan to hold judicial hearings in October MORE (R-Iowa), the Judiciary panel's chairman, set off a battle among committee members, with both sides accusing the other of bad behavior.

Booker acknowledged that he would "knowingly violating the rules."

Booker questioned Kavanaugh on Wednesday night about his stances on racial inequality, referring to emails from his time as a White House counsel for President George W. Bush. But, Republicans later pointed out, one of the emails he was referring to was labeled as "committee confidential."

Booker's threat immediately started a rhetorical firestorm among Judiciary Committee members.

Grassley, growing testy, interrupted Booker to ask: "How many times you going to tell us that?"

Democrats lamented that some documents were committee confidential, and Republicans warned that Booker would be breaking Senate rules.

"Running for president is no excuse for violating the rules of the Senate," Sen. John CornynJohn CornynManchin wrestles with progressive backlash in West Virginia O'Rourke's rise raises hopes for Texas Dems down ballot Five takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke debate showdown MORE (R-Texas) said to Booker. "I'd encourage our colleagues to avoid the temptation to either violate the Senate rules or to treat the witness unfairly."

Cornyn added that: "This is no different from the senator deciding to release classified information. ... That is irresponsible and outrageous."

Tens of thousands of documents have been given to the committee under the label of committee confidential.

But one by one, Democrats on the committee argued that the process wasn't fair. Democrats have taken issue with Bill Burck, Bush's lawyer, being able to sort through the documents. Burck is a former GOP staffer and colleague of Kavanaugh's.

"I have not made a big fight about this ... but again, lest silence imply consent, I think that rule is as ineffectual as if the chair had unilaterally repealed the law of gravity," Sen. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseSenate Dems ask Trump to disclose financial ties to Saudi Arabia Democrats won’t let Kavanaugh debate die Senate poised to confirm Kavanaugh after bitter fight MORE (D-R.I.) said. "It simply isn't so. I haven't agreed to this rule. I haven't voted on this rule."

Updated at 10:26 a.m.