Sam Clovis: The Iowa connection to the arrests in the Trump/Russia investigation

Sam Clovis speaking at a Trump Campaign rally in Ames, Iowa, on Jan. 19, 2016. — photo by Alan Hanson via Wikimedia

Sam Clovis — the former Sioux City rightwing radio host, who served as national co-chairman of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign — encouraged a Trump campaign foreign policy adviser to travel to Russia to get information from people connected to the Russian government, according to court documents released on Monday. According to his attorney, Clovis wasn’t encouraging collusion with the Russians, he was just being Iowa nice.

On Monday, as one-time Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and former Trump aide Rick Gates were being arrested at the direction of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, it was revealed that Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos had already pled guilty as part of Mueller’s investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. As part of plea bargain, Papadopoulos pled guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with the Russians during the campaign, and he agreed to become a “proactive cooperator” with the investigation.

During the presidential campaign, Papadopoulos was approached by two Russians, who apparently had ties to the Putin government and claimed they could put Papadopoulos in touch with other Russians, who could provide the Trump campaign with “dirt” on Hillary Clinton collected by government, or government-connected, sources. Papadopoulos provided Mueller with the names of the members of the Trump campaign he told about these Russian contacts. He told Clovis. Clovis replied by email, “Great work.”

In the court documents released by the special counsel’s office, Clovis is referred to as ‘the Campaign Supervisor.”

Following his March 24, 2016 meeting with the Professor and the Female Russian National [Papadopoulus’ initial Russian contacts], defendant PAPADOPOULOS emailed the Campaign Supervisor and several members of the Campaign’s foreign policy team and stated that he had just met with his “good friend” the Professor, who had introduced him to the Female Russian National (described by defendant PAPADOPOULOS in the email as “Putin’s niece”) and the Russian Ambassador in London. Defendant PAPADOPOULOS stated that the topic of their discussion was “to arrange a meeting between us and the Russian leadership to discuss U.S.-Russia ties under President Trump.” The Campaign Supervisor responded that he would “work it through the campaign,” but that no commitments should be made at that point. The Campaign Supervisor added: “Great work.”

Papadopoulos kept up the “great work,” and continued to email updates to Clovis, who was described by another campaign official as “running point” on this.

In June 2016, after several email and Skype exchanges with a “connection” to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Papadopoulos reported that he had been invited to Russia to meet with officials to get the promised dirt on Clinton. Papadopoulos told Clovis and other campaign officials he was willing to make the trip to Russia.

After several weeks of further communications regarding a potential “off the record” meeting with Russian officials, on or about August 15, 2016, the Campaign Supervisor told defendant PAPADOPOULOS that “I would encourage you” and another foreign policy advisor to the Campaign to “make the trip[], if it is feasible.” [sic]

Victoria Toensing, an attorney for Clovis, confirmed to The Washington Post that Clovis is “the Campaign Supervisor” named in the court documents. Toensing told the Post that Clovis “always vigorously opposed any Russian trip for Donald Trump and/or the campaign.” She claimed Clovis only replied to Papadopoulos’ emails because Clovis is “a polite gentleman from Iowa.”

Papadopoulos was arrested on July 27, and pled guilty earlier this month.

Clovis is currently Trump’s nominee for the top scientific position at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, despite the fact Clovis is not a scientist and has no background in the sort of research the position is responsible for overseeing. A Senate confirmation hearing for Clovis is scheduled for next week.