When the first indictments were handed down on Monday, in Robert Mueller’s ongoing Russia probe, one of the names that has emerged and played heavily into the week’s narrative was that of a volunteer foreign policy adviser, by the name of George Papadopoulos.
Papadopoulos was arrested for lying to the FBI about contacts he supposedly had with Russia-connected individuals.
Within Papadopoulos’ statements to the FBI, he named a senior Trump campaign supervisor with encouraging him to reach out to the Russians, and to set up a meeting between the campaign and Russian players.
That particular senior campaign supervisor turned out to be Sam Clovis, Trump’s pick to lead the USDA.
His plea agreement describes contact with unnamed campaign officials, some of whom encouraged Papadopoulos to continue his outreach to Russians who had promised damaging information on Hillary Clinton. People familiar with the structure of the foreign policy advisory board on which Papadopoulos served have said Clovis, who hastily assembled the board last year amid questions about Trump’s foreign policy knowledge, would have been the supervisor described several times in the plea agreement.
And now, because of that involvement, Clovis has been drawn into the larger investigation of potential collusion.
With that in mind, Clovis, who already faced a tough haul to make it through confirmation, into the spot as the top scientist with the USDA, has withdrawn his nomination.
Clovis gave his withdrawal notice in a letter to the White House.
Clovis’ letter to Trump, in which he informs the president of his decision to exit the confirmation process, blames the “political climate inside Washington” for denying him a fair confirmation.
“The relentless assaults on you and your team seem to be a blood sport that only increases in intensity each day,” Clovis wrote.
Despite the scrutiny of Clovis’ role in creating the panel that included Papadopoulos and Carter Page, another adviser whose Russia ties has caused problems for the White House, Clovis wrote that he intends to remain in his current role as a liaison between the Department of Agriculture and the West Wing.
Clovis faced an uphill climb with his nomination, based on a combination of controversial statements and a lack of experience or qualifications for the USDA position.