Iowa’s Sam Clovis is no longer President Trump’s nominee for the top scientific position at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It was announced on Thursday that Clovis sent a letter to Trump asking for his nomination be withdrawn because he did not want it to be “a distraction or negative influence.”
On Monday, Special Counsel Robert Mueller unsealed court documents revealing that as national co-chair of Trump’s presidential campaign Clovis encouraged Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos to work with Russians connected to the Putin administration to get “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.
According to court documents, Papadopoulos sent Clovis an email in August 2016, in which he volunteered to travel to Russia to meet with an official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to get information to use against Clinton. Clovis replied via email that Papadopoulos should make the trip “if it is feasible.”
On a conference call with Iowa reporters on Wednesday, Sen. Chuck Grassley said that nothing in the court documents affected his support for Clovis’ nomination.
“There’s an entirely different context than what was reported about Clovis and his relationship to this George P.,” Grassley told reporters.
Grassley said he had read other emails that indicate Clovis wasn’t encouraging Papadopoulos to travel to Russia when he told Papadopoulos he should travel to Russia. The senator said the other emails cannot be made public.
Both Grassley and Sen. Joni Ernst supported Clovis’ nomination to be the USDA undersecretary for research, education and economics, despite the fact that Clovis is not a scientist and federal law requires the undersecretary be selected “from among distinguished scientists with specialized training or significant experience in agricultural research, education, and economics.”
The announcement of the withdrawal of Clovis’ nomination came the same morning as The Washington Post reported Clovis had sent a letter to the ranking Democrat on the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee that confirmed “he has no academic credentials in either science or agriculture.”