Booker says he will release committee confidential documents

Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerSenate Dems press DOJ over coronavirus safety precautions in juvenile detention centers Senators ask DeVos to adjust FAFSA form due to the coronavirus pandemic Stakes high for Collins in coronavirus relief standoff 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

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 GrassleyFormer Romney strategist joins anti-Trump Lincoln Project Frustration builds in key committee ahead of Graham subpoena vote  Rosenstein to testify as part of Graham's Russia investigation probe 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 CornynGOP senators urge Trump not to restrict guest worker visas Castro, Warren, Harris to speak at Texas Democratic virtual convention Democratic unity starts to crack in coronavirus liability reform fight 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 Judiciary Committee calls for national safety guidelines amid liability hearing Democrats ask for investigation of DOJ decision to drop Flynn case McConnell under mounting GOP pressure to boost state aid 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.