Sen. Cory Booker

AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Sen. Booker Says He Broke 'Sham' Rule By Releasing Documents At Kavanaugh Hearing

September 10, 2018 - 2:39 pm

WASHINGTON (WCBS 880/AP) -- On Thursday, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) broke Judiciary Committee rules by releasing confidential documents about Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Republicans quickly threatened Booker with expulsion from the Senate.

On Thursday, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said senators could be expelled from office for violating confidentially rules -- singling out Booker with a threat of expulsion and “punishment for contempt.”

Booker responded, "Bring it." He said the public had a right to know the history of a lifetime appointee to the Supreme Court as he released the 12 pages of documents labeled “committee confidential.”

Booker told WCBS 880’s Steve Scott Monday that he thought there was no reason the documents should be withheld from the public, and the rule was arbitrary.

“The documents aren’t classified; the documents aren’t national security is what I mean, and they’re not containing, you know, sensitive information. They’re really just important information about this candidate, and that’s been the biggest issue for me in this whole Supreme Court nominee hearings is that the Republicans are refusing to release information about the candidates,” he said.

Booker said only 10 percent of Judge Kavanaugh’s record is available.

“The people have a right to know about this candidate up for a lifetime appointment, who can change American culture in dramatic ways. And so the rule itself is unjust, unnecessary, and unfair, and I will just not comply with rules that are unfair and unjust, and frankly, are just a bald-faced attempt to keep information from the American public about a candidate for one of the most important positions in our land,” he said.

Every Democrat on the Judiciary Committee had already publicly proclaimed they would vote against Kavanaugh, but Booker said whether the documents would change any votes is not the point.

“First of all, there are a number of people on both sides of the aisle that their votes are not known yet, but our constitutional duty is to advise and consent, and in order to do that, you must be able to look at a person’s – the body of a person’s relevant work. And things might come out during that time. They might be of concern to Republicans and Democrats,” he said.

Booker accused the committee of trying to hide 90 percent of Kavanaugh’s record.

“There’s nobody – in the media, or in my office even – would we hire somebody if we only had 10 percent of their résumé and they were hiding 90 percent of it. And so the public has a right to know who’s up for this position. The public has a right to know the record of somebody that’s up for this position,” he said. “And it’s stunning to me that they’re not allowing his record to be revealed to the pubic or even to senators.”

Booker said for that reason, he went ahead and broke a Senate rule that he thought was “unjust and unfair,” and he said he is willing to accept whatever consequences the committee  imposes. He said ethics charges were discussed as late as Friday.

“But at the end of the day, this is a sham rule, and I’m confident that number one, they’re not going to bring those charges, because they can’t defend this rule. If this was about national security issues, or really sensitive information, I understand those things should be kept committee confidential. But this is the person’s record. This is the person’s relevant communications that affect American society,” he said. “So I’m willing to accept whatever consequences.”

Booker said he does not believe the committee will follow through with his threats.

“But even if they do, I’ve done the right thing,” he said. “This is how I was raised. This is what I was taught. This is just disobedience, and I’m going to continue to stand where I am, and I will continue to release committee confidential documents. We’d been releasing tranches all last week, and I’ll continue to do so this week.”

Conyn told Booker during the Kavanaugh confirmation hearing on Thursday that “running for president is no excuse for violating the rules of the Senate." When asked if his move to release the documents and break the rule was the opening salvo of a 2020 presidential campaign, Booker said “absolutely not.”

He also said talking about his motives does not change the merits of his argument.

“They can’t attack the merits, so they’re trying to attack the person. And understand this – I’m not the only person that did that. As soon as I said those things, you heard much more senior senators – like Dick Durbin, like Dick Blumenthal – stand up and say, ‘I’m going to do the same thing.’ Now, they’re not attacking those senators, many of whom have already released committee confidential documents. So they’re making this personal, they’re attacking me, and I’m saying it’s not about me,” he said. “It’s about the bigger issue.”

He also said the focus should be on the 2018 midterm elections, and anything about the 2020 presidential race can be discussed later.

Booker added that his past political experience has prepared him for some hard knocks.

“I’ve learned early on, in my earliest days running for mayor in the city of Newark, that when you step into the political arena, buckle your chinstrap, because it’s a hard-hitting game. And I’m willing to take that. I learned in the early days that that’s part of the process. But I do believe that when you get on in that arena and you fight it out, it matters. What you say matters – even if it’s a losing cause, standing up and telling the truth matters,” he said.

Booker said if his actions meant he would be forced to sacrifice his position, “so be it.”

One of the documents was from Kavanaugh’s time as an aide to President George W. Bush, in which he entertained the use of racial profiling to combat terrorism.

Booker took on Cornyn Thursday as he released an email from Kavanaugh about racial profiling written during his time as a top White House aide to President George W. Bush.

Some of the documents the Democrats wanted disclosed had been released hours earlier, in a pre-dawn disclosure approved by Bill Burck, the GOP attorney who serves as presidential records lawyer for Bush.

"We were surprised to learn about Senator Booker's histrionics this morning because we had already told him he could use the documents publicly," Burck said by email last week. Booker had sought release late Wednesday, after questioning Kavanaugh on race and drawing rebuke from his colleagues for disclosing the confidential documents. They were made available after 3 a.m. Thursday.

Booker's spokeswoman said that only by raising the issue publicly was the senator able to "shame the committee into agreeing" to release the pages to the public.

(© 2018 WCBS 880. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)