Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) is releasing another round of “confidential” paperwork from Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s work as a White House lawyer, despite the threat of a potential ethics investigation.
Booker’s latest set of emails stamped “committee confidential” — meaning they haven’t been cleared for pubic release — total 82 pages, some with redactions. The documents were released Friday evening.
The New Jersey Democrat defended the move, arguing that the GOP process for confirming Kavanaugh “makes a mockery of Senate precedent” and the chamber’s “duty of advice and consent.”
“The public – and the Senators whose responsibility it is to vet this nominee – have the right to know where Judge Kavanaugh stands on important issues of law and justice,” he added.
Included in the documents are emails to Kavanaugh and other White House, Justice Department and Senate staffers from then-GOP Senate aide Manny Miranda — who hacked into Democratic files in 2002 — discussing Democratic strategy for opposing a judicial nomination.
In another email thread about an Associated Press article headlined “Bush administration calls affirmative action plan ‘plainly unconstitutional,’ ” Kavanaugh is asked who from the White House counsel’s office could discuss the issue.
Kavanaugh says whoever handles the calls should make clear that there “is no need to take a position on whether diversity itself is a compelling interest since race-neutral alternatives are available and, in other states, have ensured that minorities have access to and are represented in institutions of higher education.”
In another he sends a biography on William Pryor — a judicial nomination Kavanaugh had told the committee he was “not involved” with in 2004. Pryor is considered controversial because of his stance on Roe v. Wade.
Democrats grilled Kavanaugh during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings this week on Pryor’s nomination after emails were released that showed Kavanaugh had been looped in on the discussions about the nomination.
Asked by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) if he interviewed Pryor, Kavanaugh said he didn’t “believe so, but it’s possible.”
Asked later by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the chairman of the Judiciary Committee who argued Democrats were trying to misrepresent the emails, Kavanaugh added that he was not the “primary person” on Pryor.
Spokesmen for Grassley didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment about the latest documents’ “committee confidential” status. Tens of thousands of documents have been given to the committee under that label.
Friday’s release is the sixth set of “committee confidential” documents that Booker has released over the past two days, and he defended the latest release.
“Each of us has an obligation to oppose rules and regulations that are unjust and unfair. This is one of those instances. The manner in which these documents were categorized is highly partisan and without basis,” Booker said.
And it comes as he’s engaged in a high-stakes back-and-forth with Republican leadership, who have floated that his actions could spark an investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told
conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt that Booker’s decision — which the Democratic senator acknowledged violated the Senate rules — was “unusual” and that he wouldn’t be surprised if it was reviewed by the Ethics Committee.
“Let me just say this. When you break the Senate rules, it’s something the Ethics Committee could take a look at. And that would be up to them to decide. But it’s routinely looked at the Ethics Committee,” McConnell said.
Sen. John Cornyn (Texas), the No. 2 Senate Republican, separately retweeted a video of Booker saying he “knowingly” violated the rules, adding: “This is likely a matter for the Senate Ethics Committee.”
But Booker, who is considered to be a potential 2020 White House contender, has been unapologetic about his decision to release the documents.
He quickly fired back at Cornyn with a tweet, that saying that Republicans were angry that Democrats “exposed this sham process.”
“I stand by my actions. I released 28 ‘committee confidential’ documents to the public yesterday. Today I will be releasing more,” Booker added in a tweet
Despite the GOP backlash, Booker’s hardball tactics have won solidarity among his Democratic colleagues on the Judiciary Committee.
Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) on Thursday tweeted out two pages of emails stamped “committee confidential,” though Republicans later argued they had been cleared. And on Friday, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), another potential 2020 contender, tweeted out a screenshot of an email from 2002 that was stamped “committee confidential.”
“Brett Kavanaugh coached Bush’s judicial nominees to give the same kind of vague answers he gave us on Roe v. Wade this week. We have the receipts,” Harris said in the tweet.
In the email released by Harris, with the subject line “Justice Owen,” Kavanaugh is asked for advice on what a judicial nominee shouldn’t say in meetings with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and then-Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.).
“She should not talk about her views on specific policy or legal issues. She should say that she has a commitment to follow Supreme Court precedent, that she understands and appreciates the role of a circuit judge, that she will adhere to statutory text, that she has no ideological agenda,” Kavanaugh wrote in the email.
Other Democrats warned that while they had not yet released “committee confidential” documents, they reserved the right to do so before a vote on Kavanaugh.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) characterized Democrats as attending the hearing “under protest” and wouldn’t rule out releasing documents later this month.
“I hereby reserve the right to release documents before any confirmation vote, so that my colleagues can see what the truth is,” Blumenthal said.
Updated: 8:01 p.m.