Senate

Booker releases new round of 'confidential' Kavanaugh documents

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) on Wednesday released a new set of "confidential" documents from Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh's White House tenure despite threats of an Ethics Committee investigation.

Booker released 50 new pages of emails, some of which have "committee confidential" stamped across the body of the email. Other pages have "committee confidential" written at the bottom of the email page.

The designation means the documents, which were given to the Judiciary Committee, have not been cleared for public release.

It is the seventh batch of "committee confidential" documents Booker has released since late last week, saying he is breaking committee rules in the name of transparency.

Booker said the documents raise "more serious and concerning questions" about whether Kavanaugh was "honest" with Judiciary Committee members.

"These documents suggest Judge Kavanaugh misled the Senate Judiciary Committee during his prior testimony. This a grave and worrisome prospect given the fact that Judge Kavanaugh is up for a lifetime appointment to our nation's highest court with the potential to change American law for decades to come," Booker added.

The move comes as the Senate's top Republicans have warned that Booker's decision to release the documents violates the Senate rules and could spark an investigation by the Senate 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 [by] the Ethics Committee," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told Hugh Hewitt late last week.

Booker's decision to release the documents rankled Republicans, who accused him of being driven by political ambition. Booker is considered a 2020 contender for the Democratic presidential nomination.

But Booker has doubled down on this decision, using an appearance on "The Tonight Show" to tell GOP leadership to "bring it."

Booker told late-night TV host Jimmy Fallon that he would like to keep his job as a senator but not "at the expense of not doing what's right."

"Let me be clear though, I love my job. I love my job. I would like to keep my job, just in case anybody is listening out there. But I don't want to keep it at the expense of not doing what's right. It's not right that they're keeping so much from the American public," Booker said. 

Booker argues the documents raise fresh questions about if Kavanaugh misled the Judiciary Committee during his 2006 confirmation hearing for his current post on the D.C. circuit.

Kavanaugh told senators at the time that circuit court nominee Charles Pickering, who was considered controversial because of his record on civil rights, was "not one of the judicial nominees that I was primarily handling."

But several emails released by Booker on Wednesday show Kavanaugh discussing Pickering's nomination with his colleagues, and taking part in meetings about Pickering.

When an aide emails Kavanaugh and other staffers about a meeting with senators, another staffer replies that "I could make it, but Brett and Noel have been much more involved in the Pickering fight, which is what I assume this is about. "

Another 2003 email sent by Kavanaugh discusses a Sunday show strategy for defending Pickering and circulates a "one-paragraph summary of key talking points."

And in a separate 2003 email Kavanaugh circulates an op-ed he has written for Alberto Gonzales defending Pickering and calling for his nomination to get a vote.

"Heather and I had a good meeting today with Chafee people about Owen and Pickering (and we meet with Collins people tomorrow)," Kavanaugh adds in an email sharing the draft op-ed.

Another 2003 email includes Kavanaugh and others getting set up to meet with Pickering, who Kavanaugh predicts will want to give them "strategy thoughts." 

Raj Shah, a White House spokesman, wrote in a tweet that Kavanaugh said he didn't "primarily" handle Pickering's nomination.

"Judge Kavanaugh said he didn't 'primarily' handle Judge Pickering's nomination, and nothing whatsoever in these emails contradicts that testimony," Shah tweeted Wednesday evening.

It's unclear, despite GOP frustration, if Booker will face any public consequences from the Ethics Committee, which rarely publicly punishes sitting members.

No Republican senators have said they have referred Booker's action to the committee for review and the panel conducts most of its work behind closed doors.

The conservative group Judicial Watch delivered a request for a preliminary investigation to the Ethics Committee on Wednesday.

"Senator Booker, in an absurd invocation of 'Spartacus,' explicitly invited his expulsion from the Senate in his egregious violation of the rules and contempt for the rule of law and the Constitution," stated Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. Booker, in first announcing he would release committee confidential documents last week, compared his decision to the moment a Roman gladiator who led a rebellion declared himself using the line "I am Spartacus" in a 1960 movie.

"Will the Senate assert the rule of law in the Booker case or allow mob rule to be the new standard?" Fitton asked.

--Updated 9:20 p.m.

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