The third day of Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing for the Supreme Court started with another partisan fight over documents the committee has not publicly released concerning his work at the White House under President George W. Bush.
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When one Democrat, Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, threatened to release one of the documents on his own, it prompted Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas to accuse Booker of “conduct unbecoming of a senator.”
“Running for president is no excuse for violating the rules of the Senate or of confidentiality of the documents that we are privy to,” Cornyn said to Booker, who is considered a possible Democratic contender for president in 2020.
The fight began when Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said Democrats who have protested that some documents were not available could have made their complaints beforehand but waited to do it publicly to delay the hearing.
The documents in question are not classified but are marked “committee confidential,” meaning members of the committee have access to them but they aren’t released to the public.
Booker pushed back, blaming the process of having a private lawyer and former colleague of Kavanaugh, Bill Burck, vet the documents as the problem. Booker then said he would release an email about racial profiling even, he said, if he could be kicked out of the Senate for violating rules.
“I come from a long line, as all of us do, of Americans that understand what that kind of civil disobedience is and I understand the consequences,” Booker said. “So I am, right now, before your process is finished, I am going to release the e-mail about racial profiling and I understand that the penalty comes with potential ousting from the Senate. If Senator Cornyn believes I violate Senate rules, I openly invite and accept the consequences of my team releasing that e-mail right now.”
Sen. Cory Booker at Kavanaugh hearing says he is releasing email “about racial profiling” to “expose” that documents “being withheld from the public have nothing to do with national security.”
“I understand that the penalty comes with potential ousting from the Senate.” pic.twitter.com/dIL8TsNsEP
— ABC News (@ABC) September 6, 2018
Not long after, Booker said, “I violated this rule knowingly” and “bring the charges.”
.@SenBooker on Cornyn’s threats of expulsion: “I think he was just like a lot of bullies are, a lot of talk and no action. And so let’s see what he does. I’m willing to accept responsibility for my actions, but I don’t know what, I don’t know what that senior senator will do.”
— Mariam Khan (@MKhan47) September 6, 2018
Booker’s fellow Democrats expressed support.
“I just want to say to my colleagues, particularly my colleague from New Jersey, I completely agree with you. I concur with what you are doing. And let’s just into this together. I hope my other colleagues will join me. So if there is going to be some retribution against the senator from New Jersey, count me in,” Sen. Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, said.
Cornyn said that Booker and other Democrats risked being expelled from the Senate.
Outside the hearing room, Booker told reporters he doesn’t actually expect Cornyn to pursue charges that he violated the rule but that he’ll accept responsibility if he does.
In a 2002 Kavanaugh email released by Booker’s office, Kavanaugh with the subject line “racial profiling” about internal White House discussions on whether airport security and other law enforcement should strive for a “race-neutral” system after 9/11.
In one of the emails, Kavanaugh referenced a possible interim policy and wrote “the people (such as you and I) who generally favor effective security measures that are race-neutral DO need to grapple – and grapple now — with the interim question of what to do before a truly effective and comprehensive race-neutral system is implemented.”
Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein then read from an unreleased Kavanaugh email discussing the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion nationwide.
In the email, first disclosed by The New York Times, Kavanaugh proposed an edit to an op-ed about Roe v. Wade where he commented that “I am not sure that all legal scholars refer to Roe as the settled law of the land at the Supreme Court level since Court can always overrule its precedent.”
Kavanaugh has referred to Roe as “settled law” and said that other cases followed the precedent but declined to comment on how he could rule in any future cases.
When asked about the email Thursday, Kavanaugh said he recommended the edit to the op-ed because he didn’t think the draft accurately reflect the view of all legal scholars. He repeated his previous comments that cases since Roe v. Wade have upheld the decision and established “precedent upon precedent.”
On Wednesday, Kavanaugh answered questions about his views on executive power, abortion, and gun laws, but mostly declined to comment on issues that could be part of a future case before the Supreme Court.
Kavanaugh: “had no inappropriate conversations” about the Mueller investigation
Kavanaugh said Thursday that he has not discussed or given any hints about his views of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
“I haven’t had any inappropriate conversations about that investigation with anyone. I’ve never given anyone any hints, forecasts, previews, winks, nothing about my view as a judge or how I would rule as a judge or anything related to that,” he said.
Republican Orrin Hatch gave Kavanaugh the opportunity to follow-up on an exchange with Sen. Kamala Harris, a California Democrat, on Wednesday night. Harris had asked Kavanaugh if he discussed the Mueller investigation with someone at the law firm founded by the president’s personal lawyer, Marc Kasowitz.
Kavanaugh said that while he may have talked to fellow judges about the Mueller probe as something that’s in the news every day, he wasn’t sure he knew anyone at that law firm, asking Harris to tell him who she had in mind.
Harris Wednesday shot back, saying “I think you’re thinking of someone and you don’t want to tell us.”
Kavanaugh also said Thursday that he doesn’t recall conversations of any kind with anyone at the law firm, Kasowitz Benson Torres, but that he doesn’t know everyone who might work there.
— CSPAN (@cspan) September 6, 2018
ABC News Mariam Khan contributed to this report.
This is a developing story. Please refresh for updates.