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Cory Booker & Other Democrats Are Risking Expulsion From the Senate Over Kavanaugh’s Classified Documents

"Bring it."

cory booker, brett kavanaugh, hearing, senate, emails, documents, confidential

A major issue surrounding Brett Kavanaugh’s potential appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court is the lack of transparency in releasing the records of his public career. Democratic senators have brought this up repeatedly during his confirmation hearing, now in its third day. Kavanaugh released a large number of pages to the committee, but he did so the night before the hearing began, giving the senators nowhere near enough time to review all the documents.

On top of that, there is a large period time–from Kavanaugh’s time as an associate White House counsel in the Bush administration, which he himself has called a “formative” job in shaping his career–from which very few records have been made available to the senators.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley says that job is unimportant in learning about Kavanaugh’s “legal thinking.” Democrats, including Dianne Feinstein, say the documents are necessary to see how Kavanaugh was involved in “key issues” like torture and warrantless wiretapping.

Yesterday, Senator Patrick Leahy alluded to emails being withheld from the public that might show Kavanaugh perjured himself during 2004 and 2006 Senate hearings.

Leahy said there were emails from Kavanaugh’s time working for the George W. Bush administration that contradicted testimony he gave. The emails in question were apparently a discussion between Democrats over how to question Bush’s judicial nominees, and were stolen by a Republican staffer named Manuel Miranda.

These emails are now labeled committee classified, meaning the senators have access to them but cannot release them to the public. Violation of that confidentiality comes with severe consequences, including expulsion from the Senate.

Today, the questioning over these confidential emails escalated. Cory Booker questioned Kavanaugh last night about an email relating to racial profiling and his use of the phrase “naked racial set-aside.” Thursday morning, Booker announced that he was going to violate confidentiality and release the email and other confidential documents to the public, even if it means he’s expelled from the Senate.

It was a powerful moment.

Several other senators joined with Booker, saying that if he faced consequences, “bring it,” and they would too.

Booker released the documents, which you can read here:

Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono also released emails related to Kavanaugh’s views on Native Hawaiian programs.

Feinstein released more documents.

There’s also an email with titled “Spying,” a subject line Sen. Leahy called “not overly subtle.”

Cory Booker called the decision to break Senate rules and release these documents and act of civil disobedience. Sen. John Cornyn derisively snipped that “running for president is no excuse for violating the rules of the Senate.”

It is true that Booker is thought to be a frontrunner for the 2020 Democratic ticket, and so sure, if he does get expelled from the Senate, that would make that run an easier choice.

But to dismiss Booker’s choice and all he’s risking as a publicity stunt only emphasizes what Democrats are saying: that the Republican senators on this committee are not respecting the process of a SCOTUS appointment and the depth of investigation necessary.

Cory Booker and his fellow Democratic senators are willing to risk their jobs for the process because they believe in the process. Democrats have a (not unfounded) reputation for backing down and letting Republicans bully and steamroll them. These senators are showing the sort of courage as well as the genuine moral compass we wish politicians exhibited all the time.

(image: Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.