Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) followed through today on his vow to risk expulsion from the Senate by releasing confidential emails from Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
"I understand the penalty comes with potential ousting from the Senate," Booker stated. "I openly invite and accept the consequences of my team releasing that email right now."
The emails in question, dating back to Kavanaugh's time as a lawyer in the George W. Bush administration, had been labeled "committee confidential," meaning only senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee had access to them. But Booker released the messages anyway, arguing they're not "national security-related."
Booker made public twelve pages of emails, including a thread with the subject line "Racial Profiling." In one of the emails, dated January 17, 2002, Kavanaugh wrote that while he "generally favor[s] effective security measures that are race-neutral," it's still necessary to "grapple…with the interim question of what to do before a truly effective and comprehensive race-neutral system is developed and implemented."
Booker's acknowledgement that he's "knowingly violating" Senate rules is the latest development in Kavanaugh's contentious confirmation hearing before the Judiciary Committee. Booker questioned Kavanaugh over the emails yesterday, prompting a protest from Sen. Mike Lee (R–Utah), who pointed out that Booker was grilling Kavanaugh over documents he "can't see."
According Sen. Chuck Grassley (R–Iowa), there was a clear process in place for senators to request that certain documents be cleared for public release. Booker disagreed, referring to "this process as a bit of a sham." The New Jersey Democrat indicated that by releasing the documents, he's engaging in "civil disobedience."
Republicans condemned Booker, accusing him of grandstanding. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R–Texas) even read the Senate rules to his colleague during the hearing. But Booker said it didn't matter. "Bring it. Bring it. Apply the rule and bring the charges. Bring it," he replied to Cornyn.
Booker got some backup in his act of "civil disobedience" from many of his Democratic colleagues. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D–N.Y.) and Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D–Ill.) as well as Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D–R.I.), Richard Blumenthal (D–Conn.), and others expressed their support for Booker.
While Booker has been praised by liberals for releasing the emails, one can't ignore his ulterior motives. Though he hasn't said yet if he'll run for president in 2020, he's expected to be one of the top democratic contenders if he does. Making a scene at a high-profile confirmation hearing can only boost his profile and improve his chances of one day winning the Democratic nomination.