There was a dramatic showdown on the floor of the Senate on Thursday morning — but it wasn’t quite as dramatic as Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., made it seem.

On the third day of raucous hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, Booker, widely believed to be a possible presidential contender in 2020, threatened to release documents related to Kavanaugh’s time in the George W. Bush White House that he said were “committee confidential.”

“I understand that the penalty comes with potential ousting from the Senate,” Booker said, noting that he was “knowingly violating the rules.”

Later Thursday, Booker said that the release was the “closest I’ll probably ever have in my life to an ‘I am Spartacus’ moment.”

In a message posted to Twitter, Booker wrote that “No matter how big the fight/ Or inevitable the conclusion seems/ Stand up./ Speak up./ Wrong, temporarily victorious/ Is never greater than/ Right, forever vigilant.”

Booker then posted about a dozen pages of documents onto his Twitter feed related to racial profiling and race-conscious government programs. Sens. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., also released documents marked committee confidential on Thursday, drawing the ire of their Republican colleagues who said they were violating the rules.

“Bring it,” Booker said.

But it appears the documents that Booker posted had already been cleared for public release.

In an email, William Burck, the former Bush administration lawyer overseeing the production of Kavanaugh’s documents, said that he had approved Booker’s request to release the documents Wednesday night.

“Yes, we cleared the documents last night shortly after Senator Booker’s staff asked us to,” Burck said. “I was surprised to learn about Senator Booker’s histrionics this morning because we had already told him he could use the documents publicly.”

Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said his staff worked through the night to make “public every committee confidential document the minority has requested, including a request after midnight.”

Booker himself acknowledged the discrepancy, telling reporters that he wanted to make a “technical clarification.” According to Booker, he did, in fact, break Senate rules as he claimed — but not on Thursday.

The New Jersey Democrat told reporters that he broke the rules by bringing up the committee confidential emails during his questioning on Wednesday night, when he grilled Kavanaugh on the contents of the emails before they had been approved for release.

“So when I violated the rules, I violated them yesterday,” Booker said. “So I broke those rules yesterday.”

In a statement, Booker’s office said that his actions Wednesday night were able to “shame” the committee into releasing the documents.

“Cory said this morning that he was releasing committee confidential documents, and that’s exactly what he’s done,” said spokeswoman Kristin Lynch.

— CNBC’s
Kevin Breuninger
contributed to this report.

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