Agriculture Department pick Sam Clovis withdraws nomination after being identified in Russia probe

WASHINGTON — Sam Clovis, the nominee for the Agriculture Department’s top scientific post, has withdrawn from consideration after being identified as one of the Trump campaign officials with whom former campaign aide George Papadopoulos communicated about his Russian contacts.

“We respect Mr. Clovis’s decision to withdraw his nomination,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.

Court documents unsealed Monday that spelled out a guilty plea deal Papadopoulos struck with special counsel Robert S. Mueller on Oct. 5 cite emails from the foreign policy adviser to candidate Trump to more-senior campaign officials pressing them to meet with his Russian contacts, who claimed connections to the Kremlin and promised “dirt” on Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

In his letter to Trump withdrawing his nomination, Clovis took some shots at Washington, complaining about criticism of him and the president.

“The political climate inside Washington has made it impossible for me to receive balanced and fair consideration for this position,” Clovis wrote. “The relentless assaults on you and your team seem to be a blood sport that only increases in intensity each day … I do not want to be a distraction or negative influence.”

As recently as Monday, the White House was standing by Clovis.

When asked if the president was still comfortable with Clovis taking on the USDA role, Sanders told reporters she was “not aware of any change that would be necessary.”

In one such exchange, from May 2016, Papadopoulos emailed campaign officials that his Russian contacts wanted to meet with the candidate. Higher-ups did not rule out meetings with Russian officials, according to the court documents.

“Lets discuss. We need someone to communicate that DT is not doing these trips,” the senior campaign official replied, referring to Trump. “It should be someone low level in the campaign so as not to send any signal.”

According to multiple reports, Clovis was the supervisor of Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia-connected individuals.

Even before the Papadopoulos revelations, Senate Democrats had called for Clovis to withdraw his nomination because of his rejection of climate science and his “extremist views” on race and homosexuality.

Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts had also expressed reservations about Clovis, who in 2013 suggested that federal subsidies for crop insurance may be unconstitutional.

Other opponents of Clovis’ nomination have pointed to the 2008 farm bill, which calls for someone with a strong scientific background to serve as USDA’s chief scientist. Clovis lacks scientific credentials.

Democrats celebrated the withdrawal. “Sam Clovis was almost a comically bad nominee, even for this administration. He is inarguably unqualified, and he is wrong on almost every major issue relevant to the chief scientist post to which he was nominated,” Sen. Patrick J. Leahy said in a release.US

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

District Attorney Chesa Boudin announces charges against former SFPD Officer Christopher Samoyoa in the 2017 fatal shooting of Keita O’Neill at a press conference outside the Hall of Justice on Monday, Nov. 23, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
DA Boudin charges fired SFPD officer with manslaughter over fatal shooting

Ex-Officer Christopher Samayoa to face criminal charges in killing of Keita O’Neil

The area near the Castro Muni Metro Station is expected to be affected by construction work on the Twin Peaks Tunnel, with lane closures on Market Street and some loss of parking. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Construction on Twin Peaks Tunnel to begin November 30

Area around Castro Muni Station will see greatest impacts including lane closures on Market Street

(Genaro Molina/Pool/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
Newsom calls latest surge of COVID-19 cases ‘unprecendented’

By Eli Walsh Bay City News Foundation California’s latest surge of COVID-19… Continue reading

Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, during a news conference on March 10, 2020. (Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
LA County suspends outdoor dining at restaurants as coronavirus surges

By Alex Wigglesworth Los Angeles Times Los Angeles County public health officials… Continue reading

Renderings of the main entrance to upcoming Mission Bay elementary school on Owens Street. (Courtesy photo)
SFUSD offers first look at planned Mission Bay elementary school

San Francisco school officials this month unveiled the design of a planned… Continue reading

Most Read