Sen. Cory Booker would find himself in bad company if his decision to release confidential documents pertaining to Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh actually led to his expulsion from the Senate.
To date, 15 senators have been expelled — all but one for supporting the “Confederate rebellion.”
The outlier was former Sen. William Blount, a Revolutionary War veteran who served in the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention — and had a spotty career as a land speculator.
“His speculations had led him into serious financial difficulties,” according to the Senate Historical Office. “In an apparent effort to extricate himself, Blount concocted a scheme for Indians and frontiersmen to attack Spanish Florida and Louisiana, in order to transfer those territories to Great Britain. Unfortunately for the senator, a letter, in which Blount thinly disguised his desire to arouse the Creek and Cherokee Indians to aid his plan, fell into the hands of Federalist President John Adams.”
Adams sent the letter to the House and the Senate in 1797. Conspiring with Great Britain apparently was frowned upon, not surprising given the relatively recent troubles between the former Colonies and King George III. Blount was quickly expelled.
The senators who were expelled during the Civil War mostly hailed from Southern or Border States.
One of them, Sen. William K. Sebastian of Arkansas, got something of a reprieve. He was expelled in 1861 but the Senate later reversed that decision in 1877. His children were paid the equivalent of what his salary from his expulsion to his death in 1865.
No senator has been expelled since the Civil War, although a number have resigned in disgrace.
Senators ultimately decided not to expel one of their own on several occasions.
For example, Sen. Reed Smoot , a Utah Republican, got into trouble for“Mormonism” after a Senate committee concluded he was not entitled to serve “because he was a leader in a religion that advocated polygamy and a union of church and state, contrary to the U.S. Constitution,” Senate historians report. But the vote for expulsion was 27 to 43.
And onetime presidential candidate Robert La Follette, a Wisconsin Republican, was accused of disloyalty for opposing U.S. entry into World War I in a speech, but the majority of his colleagues voted not to take action in 1919.
Booker and Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas butted heads during Kavanaugh’s hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday after Booker said he had ordered his staff to release documents not authorized for disclosure.
Booker’s office released a statement describing the documents as several emails regarding Judge Kavanaugh’s concerning views on racial profiling and affirmative action.”
Senate Democrats have expressed their frustration over the release of documents pertaining to Kavanaugh, alleging that too much has been withheld from public view.
Booker said he “knowingly violated the rules that were put forth” as an act of “civil disobedience.”
Watch: Booker, Grassley, Cornyn Battle Over Release of Bush-Era Kavanaugh Emails