Clovis Withdraws From USDA Nomination After He's Linked to Russia Probe

Oct 31, 2017

Updated Nov. 2--U.S. Department of Agriculture nominee Sam Clovis of Iowa withdrew from consideration to be the agency's top scientist amid questions about his connection to the Russia probe. 

Clovis sent a letter to President Trump asking for his name to be withdrawn. 

"The political climate inside Washington has made it impossible for me to receive balanced and fair consideration for this position," Clovis writes. "The relentless assaults on you and your team seem to be a blood sport that only increases in intensity each day." 

Original story Oct 31--Sen. Chuck Grassley says U.S. Department of Agriculture nominee Sam Clovis of Iowa should cooperate with the special counsel that is investigating links between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Clovis is the Trump "campaign supervisor" mentioned in court documents released Monday by the special counsel, according to the Washington Post. The former conservative radio host reportedly encouraged Trump advisor George Papadopoulos in an email to meet with Russian officials.

Clovis is waiting to be confirmed as the USDA’s undersecretary for research, education and economics; a hearing is slated for Nov. 9.

Grassley was asked Tuesday whether Clovis should withdraw his nomination. He says it’s too early to make that call.

"One thing that would make a big difference to me is the extent to which Sam Clovis is committed to cooperating with the special counsel," Grassley says. "It would be stupid for him not to." 

Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, told Politico that Clovis, who ran Trump’s Iowa campaign, has been “a fully cooperative witness” in the separate Senate Intelligence Committee investigation into the election.

Court documents describe several emails between Papadopoulos and top campaign officials for now-President Donald Trump. Papadopoulos has pleaded guilty to lying to federal agents about his contact with a professor who has ties to the Russian government.

The Trump campaign asked Clovis to put together a national security advisory committee, according to an emailed statement from law firm diGenova & Toensing, which is representing Clovis.

"Among the members was George Papadopoulos, who attended one meeting and was never otherwise approached by the campaign for consultation," the statement reads. It also says Clovis "vigorously opposed" trips to Russia within the campaign.

"If a volunteer made suggestions on any foreign policy matter, Dr. Clovis, a polite gentleman from Iowa, would have expressed courtesy and appreciation," the statement reads.

Grassley says he has confidence in the special counsel.

President Trump has said before he would consider firing lead investigator Robert Mueller if he crosses a "red line". Grassley says it would be "very bad" for the president to fire Mueller.

"I would hope to be able to intervene ahead of time," Grassley says. "Don't do it. Do as you've been doing for the last two or three months--letting the process work."