Cory Booker's 'Confidential' Brett Kavanaugh Files Weren't Actually Confidential

In a surprising and risky move, Democratic Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey was thought to have released confidential committee documents Thursday on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, which included Kavanaugh's comments on racial profiling. But the documents were already cleared to be publicly released, according to what a GOP Senate Judiciary Committee spokesman told Newsweek.

Democratic Senators Mazie Hirono of Hawaii and Dick Durbin of Illinois joined Booker's move. Hundreds of thousands of documents from Kavanaugh's time working as a lawyer in President George W. Bush's White House had been deemed "committee confidential" by Republicans.

Booker said he understood that he could be expelled from the Senate for releasing documents and emails that were supposed to be available only to Senate Judiciary Committee, and not the public. He described the move as "civil disobedience" and an "'I am Spartacus' moment."

"I understand the penalty comes with potential ousting from the Senate... I openly invite and accept the consequences of my team releasing that email right now," Booker said.

But Booker and Hirono failed to mention they were notified Thursday morning that the documents previously deemed confidential were cleared by the committee to be released to the public.

In an email to Newsweek, Judiciary Committee press secretary George Hartmann said Senators Patrick Leahy, Christopher Coons, Richard Blumenthal and Cory Booker requested Wednesday night that certain "committee confidential" documents be made public for use during Kavanaugh's hearing.

"Chairman Grassley...worked with the Justice Department and office of former President Bush to waive the relevant statutory restrictions on those documents," Hartmann said. "Those restrictions were waived before 4:00 AM [Thursday] morning and made ready for release. The senators were notified of this before speaking began this morning."

The documents from both Booker and Hirono are published on the Senate Judiciary Committee's website.

"Cory [Booker] and Senate Democrats were able to shame the committee into agreeing to make last night's documents publicly available," said Booker spokesperson Kristin Lynch in an email to Newsweek.

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."

— ABC News (@ABC) September 6, 2018

.@CoryBooker to @JohnCornyn after he threatens that Booker could be removed from Senate for releasing Kavanaugh emails: "Bring it. Bring it."

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) September 6, 2018

"The fact that tens of thousands of documents revealing a Supreme Court nominee's views on key issues were deemed committee confidential and not available to the public reflects the absurdity of this process," Booker said. "The public has a right to access documents about a Supreme Court nominee's views on issues that are profoundly important, such as race and the law."

Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas called Booker's actions "irresponsible" and "outrageous."

"Running for president is no excuse for violating the rules of the Senate or the confidentiality of the documents that we're privy to," Cornyn said.

Booker shot back at Cornyn after the Republican senator read the Senate rules, and the consequences Booker could face.

"Bring it," Booker said. "Bring it."

Cornyn did not appear to realize the documents had already been made public, later tweeting that it "turns out it is already cleared for public viewing."

Durbin backed Booker's move.

"I concur with what you are doing. And let's just [go] into this together," Durbin said. "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."

Booker released 12 pages of emails from 2002 that Kavanaugh had sent during his time as a Bush aide.

With the email subject line reading "racial profiling," Kavanaugh discussed whether "airport security and other law enforcement" should be working toward a "race-neutral" system after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, according to the emails released by Booker's office.

"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," Kavanaugh wrote.

Here are the committee confidential documents that Cory Booker just released and that prompted an uproar this morning

— Manu Raju (@mkraju) September 6, 2018

Hirono followed suit by releasing more emails, that she claimed were still confidential, in which Kavanaugh wrote that government programs designed to directly aid Native Hawaiians "as a group" is "of questionable validity under the Constitution" and would be "subject to strict scrutiny."

Now Mazie Hirono releases this committee confidential document where Kavanaugh wrote that government programs targeting Native Hawaiians “as a group” is “of questionable validity under the Constitution” and would be “subject to strict scrutiny”

— Manu Raju (@mkraju) September 6, 2018

Emails still deemed confidential that were published Thursday morning by The New York Times had Kavanaugh suggesting in 2003 that the landmark Supreme Court decision on abortion rights, Roe v. Wade, was not settled law and could be overturned.

Update: This story has been updated to include a statement from George Hartmann and Kristin Lynch. Senator Cory Booker's documents were believed to be confidential when he released them, but Hartmann told Newsweek the documents were already cleared to be made public.