Bush lawyer fires back at Booker ‘histrionics’ over public documents

A lawyer overseeing the release of some of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh's past work fired back at Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerKlobuchar, O'Rourke visit Wisconsin as 2020 race heats up Sherrod Brown pushes for Medicare buy-in proposal in place of 'Medicare for all' Harris off to best start among Dems in race, say strategists, donors MORE (D-N.J.) on Thursday for "histrionics" over the documents.

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"We were surprised to learn about Senator Booker's histrionics this morning because we had already told him he could use the documents publicly," said Bill Burck, the George W. Bush lawyer who led the review of Kavanaugh's records related to his time as a White House lawyer, in a statement to The Washington Post

Booker on Thursday released emails from Kavanaugh's time as a White House counsel that had been marked "committee confidential," meaning they were not meant for public release. He announced the move in a speech during day three of Kavanaugh's Senate confirmation hearings in which he said he would be "knowingly violating the rules."

But Burck's office said they had already cleared the documents for public release.

"We cleared the documents last night shortly after Senator Booker's staff asked us to," said Burck. "In fact, we said yes to every request made by the Senate Democrats to make documents public."

A GOP Judiciary spokesman on Thursday confirmed the emails had already been cleared for release before Booker's announcement.

The spokesman said Booker, alongside several other senators, last night put in the request to use the documents during the Kavanaugh hearings. 

"[Sen. Chuck] Grassley (R-Iowa), leading the most transparent Supreme Court confirmation process in history - went to bat for them, and worked with the Justice Department and office of former President Bush to waive the relevant statutory restrictions on those documents," the spokesman said. "Those restrictions were waived before 4:00 AM this morning and made ready for release." 

According to the spokesman, the senators were notified that the restrictions had been lifted before the hearing began this morning. 

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynOn unilateral executive action, Mitch McConnell was right — in 2014 Poll shows competitive matchup if O’Rourke ran for Senate again On The Money: Trump declares emergency at border | Braces for legal fight | Move divides GOP | Trump signs border deal to avoid shutdown | Winners, losers from spending fight | US, China trade talks to resume next week MORE (R-Texas) responded to Booker's announcement during the hearing by listing the potential consequences for his actions and, in a fiery back and forth, Booker told him to "bring it." 

"Bring the charges," Booker, a potential 2020 contender, said.

Cornyn later on Thursday said he was not aware at the time that the emails had been marked non-confidential. 

"The irony is after Sen. Booker basically said he was going to release the document anyway, I learned from Sen. [Mike] Lee (R-Utah) that it had already been worked out at that this would be released to the public," Cornyn said on Fox News on Thursday afternoon. "So all of this drama this morning apparently was for nothing and it's unfortunate."

Grassley's staff released publicly a multitude of emails that had previously been marked "committee confidential" after Booker's announcement. The emails Booker released were included among the documents.   

Booker on Wednesday night pushed Kavanaugh on his views on racial equality and referenced one of the emails, which had not yet been released to the public.

In the email in question, Kavanaugh questioned affirmative action regulations from the Department of Transportation (DOT).

"The fundamental problem in this case is that these DOT regulations use a lot of legalisms and disguises to mask what in reality is a naked racial set-aside," Kavanaugh wrote in the 2001 email. 

Booker's office said Senate Democrats "were able to shame the committee into agreeing to make last night’s documents publicly available."

“Cory said this morning that he was releasing committee confidential documents, and that’s exactly what he’s done," said Booker's spokesperson Kristin Lynch. "And he’ll keep releasing them because Republicans are hiding Brett Kavanaugh’s record from the American people.”