Kevin Daley, DCNF
Justice Clarence Thomas needled Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey for his conduct during Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings, suggesting the senator behaved dishonorably by releasing documents which were purportedly confidential.
The remarks, which were made at a Federalist Society conference in Fort Worth, Texas on Sept. 8 and were only recently televised, came as Thomas explained that the high court maintains its legitimacy with the public by doing its business with honor and decency.
“If we could use that word about more people who are in public life — people who actually ask questions during confirmation hearings instead of Spartacus — if we could use the word ‘honorable’ more often, think about the difference it will make,” Thomas said to laughter and applause.
“If you can’t debate hard issues honestly, with honor, with integrity, how do we keep a civil society?” he added.
As Kavanaugh’s second day of questioning began Thursday, Booker announced that he had released confidential documents relating to Kavanaugh’s work on affirmative action and racial profiling in the George W. Bush White House.
“This is about the closest I’ll probably ever have in my life to an ‘I am Spartacus’ moment,” Booker told the committee, claiming his publication of the records constituted a violation of Senate rules.
Republican Senate aides later advised reporters that the records in question had been cleared for release on Wednesday night, meaning and publicized Thursday morning. As such, it does not appear that Booker actually violated Senate rules, though he has continued his release of confidential records in the ensuing days and believes such conduct is forbidden by internal edicts.
Senate rule 29.5 provides that any senator who breaches confidentiality may be expelled from the chamber. It is not yet clear if punitive action will follow for Booker.
Elsewhere in his remarks, Thomas criticized unnamed individuals who grandstand for television, or use ordinary political process for point-scoring.
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