Trump’s Pick For The Top USDA Post Withdraws From Consideration After Being Linked To The Russia Probe

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Along with Monday’s indictment of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates in the Justice Department’s Russia probe, the day also brought news of former Trump campaign foreign advisor George Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI months ago. The White House tried to distance itself from Papadopoulos by calling him a “volunteer,” which didn’t help their cause. Instead, focus increased upon Papadopoulos’ manueverings and, in particular, which Trump associate — mysteriously alluded to in a footnote within court documents — encouraged the low-level staffer to set up a meeting with Russian officials. Who was this associate? Reports suggested it was Sam Clovis, Trump’s top pick as chief scientist of the USDA.

Soon enough, the Washington Post confirmed that Clovis was indeed the person who pressed Papadopoulos to achieve that meeting and broker relations with Russia. Now, the outlet further reports that Clovis — who many critics felt was unqualified because he has no research experience and isn’t truly an agricultural scientist — has taken his name out of the hat. Clovis penned a letter that blamed the “political climate” for his decision:

In a letter to the president Wednesday, Clovis explained that he did not think he could get a fair consideration from the Senate, which was slated to hold a hearing on his appointment on Nov. 9.

“The political climate inside Washington has made it impossible for me to receive balanced and fair consideration for this position,” wrote Clovis, who currently serves as USDA’s senior White House adviser. “The relentless assaults on you and your team seem to be a blood sport that only increases with intensity each day.”

Clovis will stay on in his current USDA senior position and, in his letter, stressed his desire to continue serving the Trump administration in any capacity. Meanwhile, his attorney told the Washington Post that Clovis “always vigorously opposed any Russian trip for Donald Trump and/or the campaign.” The attorney also stressed that Clovis only spoke with Papadopoulos when first spoken to, and he responded because Clovis is “a polite gentleman.”

Well, politeness will only get one so far when it comes to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, which is to say, not very far at all. And we may not have heard the end of what’s to come for Clovis in the Russia probe.

(Via Washington Post & Politico)