Sen. Cory Booker (D., N.J.) dared a colleague to charge him with violating Senate rules over releasing an email Brett Kavanaugh sent when he was a lawyer in the George W. Bush White House, saying he was like Spartacus and prepared to accept the consequences.
Booker announced at Thursday's Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing he was ready to release an email, which he claimed showed Kavanaugh was sympathetic to racial profiling by the police.
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Booker said he understood such a violation came with the potential penalty of expulsion from the Senate, inviting Sen. John Cornyn (R., Texas) to charge him. Booker said the email had nothing to do with national security.
"I'm saying I'm knowingly violating the rules," Booker said. "I'm saying right now that I'm releasing committee confidential documents."
Cornyn shot back that "running for president is no excuse for violating the rules of the Senate or of the confidentiality of the documents we are privy to."
"This is no different from the senator deciding to release classified information that is deemed classified by the Executive Branch because you happen to disagree with the classification decision," Cornyn said. "That is irresponsible and outrageous."
"I hope that the senator will reconsider his decision, because 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. That is irresponsible and conduct unbecoming a senator," he added.
Democrats have continuously voiced outrage about not getting sufficient time to review documents related to Kavanaugh's time as a lawyer and staff secretary in the Bush administration. Sens. Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) and Mazie Hirono (D., Hawaii) expressed solidarity with Booker and also said they were ready to accept consequences for publicly releasing documents that hadn't been cleared.
"I concur with what you are doing, and let's jump into this pit together," Durbin said. "If there's going to be some retribution against the senator from New Jersey, count me in."
Durbin also said Cornyn's "conduct unbecoming" accusation against Booker was personal and wrong.
"Count me in, too," Hirono said.
Democrats continued to take exception to the influence of Republican attorney Bill Burck in the process of what documents were considered confidential.
Booker went on to say he had not actually violated a Senate rule with his conduct, "because there's no Senate rule that accounts for this process."
"I did willingly violate the chair's rule on the committee confidential process. I take full responsibility for violating that, sir," Booker said. "I violate it because I sincerely believe that the public deserves to know this nominee's record, in this particular case, his record on issues of race and the law."
He added he appreciated his colleagues' remarks in support.
"This is about the closet I'll probably ever have in my life to an ‘I am Spartacus' moment," he said, referring to the 1960 film about the Roman slave revolt.
Booker then dared Cornyn to "bring the charges" against him if he truly thought he had engaged in "unbecoming" conduct.