Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell suggested on Friday that Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., could face a Senate Ethics Committee investigation for releasing multiple documents classified as confidential by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The documents are related to Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh‘s time serving in the White House for President George W. Bush. The papers fall under executive privilege, meaning they were created by members of the executive branch and are not automatically accessible to members of Congress.
However, for the sake of Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing, many documents were made available to Judiciary Committee members to further inform their vote, with the caveat they not be made public without first being cleared through Bush’s records representative.
With dramatic flair, Booker announced he would not follow the committee rules regarding confidential documents and would be releasing some of them to the public, calling it his “I am Spartacus moment.” Spartacus led several slaves in an uprising against their Roman rulers.
Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas upbraided Booker for flouting Senate rules on Thursday, saying, “This is no different from the senator deciding to release classified information.”
“No senator deserves to sit on this committee, or serve in the Senate, in my view, if they decide to be a law unto themselves and willingly flout the rules of the Senate and the determination of confidentiality and classification,” he added. “Running for president is not an excuse for violating the rules of the Senate.”
Booker told Cornyn, “I have really two words to say to Mitch McConnell if he wants to do ethics charges — bring it!”
In a radio interview with Hugh Hewitt released on Friday, McConnell stated that he “wouldn’t be surprised” if Booker faces a ethics investigation for his conduct, Politico reported.
“When you break the Senate rules, it’s something the Ethics Committee could take a look at. And that would be up to them to decide. But it’s routinely looked at (by) the Ethics Committee,” McConnell said. “They have an obligation to look into violations of the Senate rules, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they did.”
The Ethics Committee is made up of three Republicans and three Democrats, including fellow Judiciary Committee member Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., according to the Washington Examiner.
CNN’s Anderson Cooper confronted Booker about his “Spartacus moment” regarding a specific Kavanaugh email with the subject line “Racial Profiling” the senator said he was releasing in defiance of Senate rules. Cooper pointed out that the email in question had already been cleared for release by Bush’s representative.
In the January 2002 email, Kavanaugh advocated for a race-neutral approach to implementing security measures in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.
“Was that just a stunt?” Cooper asked.
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) September 7, 2018
Booker argued that he broke the Senate rules by reading from the email during Kavanaugh’s hearing the night before the document was approved for public release.
He then added he has now released over 20 more documents marked “committee confidential” in violation of Senate rules.
Weds—I broke committee rules by reading from "committee confidential" docs.
Thurs—Cornyn threatened me with expulsion.
He then changed his story & backtracked. Now he's back at it threatening an ethics investigation b/c we exposed this sham process. https://t.co/FEf4p65iDl
— Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) September 7, 2018
“I was raised and taught that an unjust law you almost have an obligation to stand against it,” Booker said. “I am violating those laws. I have been doing it all day.”
“They will not move to remove me from the Senate for violating the committee confidential rule,” he said.
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