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Sam Clovis Withdraws from Consideration for Top USDA Scientist

President Donald Trump’s pick to serve as the US Department of Agriculture’s undersecretary for research, education, and economics blames the “political climate” for his decision. 

Nov 2, 2017
Jef Akst

WIKIMEDIA, ALEX HANSONIn a letter sent to President Donald Trump on Wednesday (November 1) and publicized by The Washington Post, Sam Clovis requested to be withdrawn from consideration as undersecretary for research, education, and economics for the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). Trump’s July nomination of Clovis for the position quickly faced criticism due to his lack of credentials in science or agriculture. But in the last week, criticism of Clovis boiled over as it became apparent that he knew of foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos’s role in coordinating communication between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.

With court documents released earlier this week revealing that Papadopoulos had last month pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI about his connection with Russia, it became “pretty clear [Clovis] wasn’t going to get through the process,” a senior administration official tells Politico.

Clovis himself seemed to admit that the media attention surrounding his oversight of Papadopoulos was a motivating factor in his request to withdraw. “The political climate inside Washington has made it impossible for me to receive balanced and fair consideration for this position,” he wrote to Trump. “The relentless assaults on you and your team seem to be a blood sport that only increases in intensity each day.”

Josh Nelson, deputy political director at the progressive activist group CREDO, put it even more bluntly: “The Trump campaign’s shady connections to Russia just sank another monster in Trump’s swamp,” he says in a statement emailed to The Scientist.

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