The partisan contention continued into the third day of Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings, with New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker releasing confidential documents to the public in a knowing violation of Senate rules.
“I knowingly violated the rules that were put forth, and I’m told that the committee confidential rules have knowing consequences,” he said. “I am going to release the email about racial profiling, and I understand that the penalty comes with potential ousting from the Senate.”
Booker said on Thursday morning that he felt compelled to publicly release the documents from Kavanaugh’s time in the George W. Bush Administration, because he felt the process has not been fair and that the public should know what is in them. The documents he released related to his line of questioning for Kavanaugh last night, about an e-mail discussing racial profiling.
More from TIME
“I knowingly violated the rules that were put forth, and I’m told that the committee confidential rules have knowing consequences,” Booker said during the hearing. “I am going to release the email about racial profiling, and I understand that the penalty comes with potential ousting from the Senate.”
“I openly invite and accept the consequences of my team releasing that document right now,” he added.
After Cornyn read the Senate rules about the repercussions for disclosing confidential business of the Senate, which includes committees, which carries the punishment of expulsion from the chamber, Booker responded, “bring it.”
Less than a half hour later, his office released the documents. Neither his office nor the Senate Judiciary Committee immediately responded to questions about the possible repercussions for the Senator.
The e-mail, dated January 17, 2002, and titled “racial profiling,” Kavanaugh says he generally favors race neutral security measures, but needs to grapple with the question of what to do in the interim before a “truly effective and comprehensive race-neutral system is developed and implemented.”
Booker’s fellow Democrats on the committee immediately jumped to his defense, as did Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. “All of these documents belong to the people of the United States,” said Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who is Booker’s committee colleague. “They will come out eventually.”
Booker’s decision appears to be a culmination of Democrats’ anger over the way the documents from Kavanaugh’s time in the Bush White House has been handled. Kavanaugh served in the White House Counsel’s office during the Bush Administration and subsequently served as staff secretary. Democrats insisted they should have access to all of the documents from his time as staff secretary, but Republicans demurred. Senate Republicans requested documents from Kavanaugh’s time in the White House counsel, but Democrats weren’t satisfied.
Their anger only grew after the National Archives said it could not complete the document review until October, leading Republicans to rely on the Bush Presidential library. The documents are now being reviewed — and designated for viewing — by attorney Bill Burck. Burck has represented several figures connected to Trump, including his former strategist and current White House Counsel Don McGahn (who is leaving this fall), causing to Democrats to claim the process is even more partisan.
“No Senate rule accounts for Bill Burck’s review of the documents,” said Booker. “No Senate rule and no history of the Senate accounts for what is going on right now.”
In a statement after the documents were released, Burck said Booker had requested publicizing them last night, and he had acquiesced. “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 wrote in an e-mail to TIME. “In fact, we have said yes to every request made by the Senate Democrats to make documents public.”
Republicans immediately dismissed Booker’s mechanisms as grandstanding and an open audition for a 2020 presidential campaign. “Running for President,” said Texas Senator John Cornyn, “is no excuse for violating Senate rules.”