The third day of Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing began with fireworks: A senator dared another to try to kick him out of the Senate.
Potential 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker of New Jersey and Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas jousted at the Thursday session’s start over the process by which the Judiciary Committee, National Archives, Justice Department and former President George W. Bush’s legal staff have been reviewing and clearing or withholding documents from Kavanaugh’s time working for the 43rd president.
Booker announced he had ordered his staff to release an email before it has gone through that process, saying he was knowingly violating a Senate rule that could lead to his removal from the chamber.
“I knowingly violated the rules that were put forth,” Booker said, calling his move an act of “civil disobedience.”
Watch: Booker, Grassley, Cornyn Battle Over Release of Bush-Era Kavanaugh Emails
Then he basically dared the Senate GOP whip to pursue the matter and try to kick him out of the Senate.
“I understand the consequences. … The penalty comes with potential ousting from the Senate,” Booker said. “And if Sen. Cornyn believes that I violated Senate rules, I openly invite and accept the consequences of my team releasing that email right now.”
In an official statement, Booker’s office described what the emails pertained to.
“The documents Booker released today contain several emails regarding Judge Kavanaugh’s concerning views on racial profiling and affirmative action,” the statement said.
“In one email, with the subject line ‘racial profiling,’ Judge Kavanaugh remarked that he ‘generally’ favored race-neutral security measures, but thought there was an ‘interim question’ of whether the government should use racial profiling before a supposedly race-neutral system could be developed sometime in the future,” it continued.
Booker’s comments during the hearing came after a frustrated Cornyn chided Democrats on the panel for ignoring Senate rules and norms during late-night questioning of the nominee Wednesday.
“He’s right. Running for president is no excuse for violating the rules of the Senate or the confidentiality of the documents we are privy to,” Cornyn shot back. He called Booker’s actions “irresponsible and conduct unbecoming a senator.”
Booker later challenged Cornyn to not be a “tempest in a tea pot” and “bring the charges” against him.
He then ticked off a list of several other Judiciary Committee Democrats who support his cause, also urging Cornyn to bring charges against them.
Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, for instance, said during the chaotic opening hour Thursday that she, too, planned to release a document related to Kavanaugh’s record that so far has been withheld.
After nearly an hour of threats and challenges, Sen. Mike Lee announced this about the document Booker vowed to release: “It’s been made public. The process worked.”
It all might be moot, as the Judiciary Committee cleared the racial profiling document as part of 93 pages it officially released after the Booker-Cornyn exchange.
South Carolina GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham later chided Booker, without naming him, by saying one “can’t always get what you want” as a member of a legislative body.
“I’m often asked … if these hearings have become a circus,” he said. “I’m here to defend circuses,” adding parents can take their children to the big top but should not let them watch confirmation hearings. He, too, contended Booker mostly was angling for a presidential run, saying he is unsure just what point the New Jersey Democrat and others on his side were trying to make.
Graham also fretted about the chamber’s high court confirmation process, telling the nominee, “I worry about the people that will come after you because every time it gets worse and worse and worse.”
Democratic Delays, 2020 Hopefuls and Don’t Forget About the Issues: What We’re Watching at Kavanaugh’s Hearing