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After Leading Pro-Kavanaugh Group Pauses Ads, People Wonder if They’re ‘Wavering’ on Nominee


US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh speaks during the first day of his confirmation hearing in front of the US Senate on Capitol Hill in Washington DC, on September 4, 2018. - President Donald Trump's newest Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is expected to face punishing questioning from Democrats this week over his endorsement of presidential immunity and his opposition to abortion. Some two dozen witnesses are lined up to argue for and against confirming Kavanaugh, who could swing the nine-member high court decidedly in conservatives' favor for years to come. Democrats have mobilized heavily to prevent his approval.

Some of Brett Kavanaugh‘s most stalwart defenders appeared to be hedging their bets after a third woman, Julie Swetnick, came forward with disturbing allegations against the already embattled U.S. Supreme Court nominee.

The Judicial Crisis Network (JCN) is the foremost group supporting Republican nominees to the nation’s federal court system at various levels, including the high court, and has so far led the charge in favor of Kavanaugh’s nomination and confirmation after his name was supplied to President Donald Trump by the Federalist Society’s Leonard Leo–who is also a co-founder of JCN.

On Wednesday, JCN’s chief counsel and policy director Carrie Severino was surprisingly non-committal about Kavanaugh’s prospects when pressed on the issue following the release of Swetnick’s sworn affidavit. During an interview on MSNBC, host Craig Melvin asked, “Should Judge Kavanaugh still be confirmed?”

Severino refused to say yes or no. After a brief pause, she replied:

I think we have to look into this further. But I think, from what we know so far, we don’t have corroboration yet. And, so I think, if the Senate votes on this soon, I think they would have to go on what they know so far. But I know the Senate Judiciary Committee is going to look into this before they would move forward to a vote.

The shift in tone here is notable. Severino previously took to Kavanaugh’s defense on CNN by controversially describing Christine Blasey Ford‘s attempted rape allegation as “a whole range of conduct from boorishness to rough horse play to actual attempted rape.”

Media figures on Twitter immediately noted the disconnect.

Think Progress editor Ian Millhiser tweeted, “It is literally her job to get Donald Trump’s nominees confirmed…He’s toast.” The Wrap’s media editor Jon Levine said “Severino appear to be wavering” in her support for Kavanaugh.

But that wasn’t all that had Kavanaugh critics doubting his well-funded support group.

While noting the Severino hedge, Open Secrets researcher Anna Massoglia reported that JCN had stopped running Facebook ads in support of their preferred Supreme Court nominee as of Tuesday. This was later confirmed by Campaign Legal Center’s Reform Program Director Brendan Fischer.

Severino’s comments, taken in tandem with that pause in JCN’s advertising on behalf of Kavanaugh, led to a rush of speculation about whether the battlements were perhaps being abandoned in light of the numerous sexual assault claims.

After that brief onslaught of Twitter attention however, Severino clarified that she and her group still “fully support Judge Kavanaugh and look forward to his confirmation.”

As for those paused Facebook ads? They’ve since been reactivated.

[image via SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images]

Follow Colin Kalmbacher on Twitter: @colinkalmbacher

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