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Sen. Cory Booker says we are witnessing 'a Jackie Robinson moment for our nation'

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson may soon be getting a title change. If all goes as expected over the next couple days, by the end of the summer, she will be known as Justice Jackson. It's a historic moment for Judge Jackson and for the country. And to talk more about it, we're joined now by New Jersey Democratic Senator Cory Booker, who sits on the Judiciary Committee. Welcome back to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

CORY BOOKER: It's great to be on. Thank you for having me.

CHANG: It's great to have you. So you have talked quite personally about how important this historic nomination is to you. In fact, you know, one moment during Jackson's confirmation hearing, you made remarks that went viral. Can you just talk about what you're feeling now, as her expected confirmation draws closer?

BOOKER: Well, I'm very excited and getting a chance to almost feel like I'm in a front row witnessing a Jackie Robinson moment for our nation. It just is a moment where I feel joy and incredible excitement about the fact that such an accomplished human being is getting a chance to really break new ground. And I think it's going to be something that's great for all of America to see this moment happen, hopefully by the end of the week.

CHANG: Yeah. You have used this word, joy, a number of times to describe the significance of this moment, though there were some pretty ugly moments during this whole confirmation process - right? - where there was some pretty aggressive questioning from Republican senators. Let's take a listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF MONTAGE)

TED CRUZ: Tell me, does that same principle apply to other protected characteristics? For example, I'm an Hispanic man. Could I decide I was an Asian man?

JOSH HAWLEY: So you don't regret it?

KETANJI BROWN JACKSON: No one case, Senator, can stand in for...

HAWLEY: I'm not asking that.

BROWN JACKSON: I...

HAWLEY: I'm asking if you regret this sentence in this case, and it sounds like the answer is no.

LINDSEY GRAHAM: There are two standards going on here. If you're an African American conservative woman, you're fair game to have your life turned upside down, to be filibustered, no matter how qualified you are. And if you express your faith as a conservative, all of a sudden, you're a F-ing nut.

CHANG: That was Senators Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley and Lindsey Graham. How do you respond to Senator Graham's statement there, that there are two standards when it comes to the way Congress evaluates candidates and, in particular, candidates of color?

BOOKER: Well, I guess his example was a little stunning to me because he had to go all the way back to 2003 just to try to give an example of a Black woman that was elevated. And that woman was actually confirmed, so his arguments didn't make sense. And he had to reach a long way back, over the entire Donald Trump years.

CHANG: You're referring to Janice Rogers Brown, who was nominated to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals?

BOOKER: Yes, absolutely - all the way back in 2003. And she ultimately got on the Circuit Court, which is considered the second most powerful court in the land. So I don't even understand fully his grievance in this case. And it really does say something that to find a conservative Black woman, he had to reach back all the way to 2003, where most of us were not even in the Senate. Not to mention I wasn't even in elected office way back then.

CHANG: That segues into my next question. I want to turn to what's been happening with another Supreme Court justice, Justice Clarence Thomas. His wife, Ginni Thomas, sent text messages that show she was lobbying then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to do more to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Do you think Justice Thomas should recuse himself from any January 6 case?

BOOKER: I absolutely do. And it is important, again, that we protect the legitimacy of the courts. And something that is well within the realm of prudent judicial thinking is to be above the appearance of impropriety. That is clearly not the case here. And the text messages that were revealed aren't just sort of on the right of the political divide in our country. They are extreme beliefs that the election was not legitimate and that there should be - there should have been actions taken to undermine or stop the peaceful transition of power in the United States. And so for his - for the legitimacy of the court and for the need in our nation now to build trust in our third branch of government, he should really recuse himself.

CHANG: Do you think Justice Thomas should resign from the court?

BOOKER: No. I don't see any substance in the facts that are before us right now that would call for him to do that.

CHANG: Democratic Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, thank you very much for joining us today.

BOOKER: Thank you for having me, always. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.