Sam Clovis, Donald Trump’s pick to serve as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s top scientist, withdrew his name from consideration just a week before his confirmation hearing, after becoming ensnared in the investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russian government officials.
According to The Washington Post, court documents unsealed earlier this week revealed that Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty in early October to making false statements to the FBI about his attempts to broker a relationship between the campaign and Russian officials.
The documents also reveal that Clovis knew about Papadopoulos’ efforts, and even encouraged him to organize an “off the record”meeting with the Russians.
In a letter to Trump, Clovis said he did not think he could get fair consideration from the Senate, which was slated to hold a hearing on his appointment on Nov. 9.
Clovis had previously come under scrutiny and harsh criticism from Democrats and pro-equality organizations after anti-LGBTQ comments he made as a candidate for the U.S. Senate came to light. For instance, he said that homosexuality is a choice and that legalizing same-sex marriage could lead to the legalization of pedophilia.
Senate Democrats had already been critical of Clovis because they believed him to be unqualified for the position of chief scientist, due to his lack of credentials. Clovis has also argued in favor of “religious freedom” measures that would allow businesses to refuse to hire LGBTQ people by citing religious or moral objections to homosexuality or transgenderism.
After the allegations surrounding Clovis’ knowledge of the Trump campaign’s involvement with Russia, the Human Rights Campaign called it “unsurprising” that Clovis would cozy up to someone like Vladimir Putin, who has led efforts to restrict LGBTQ rights in his own country.
Following Clovis’ announcement, David Stacy, HRC’s government affairs director called Clovis’ claims about LGBTQ people and the idea of sexual orientation being a choice “unscientific nonsense.”
“It’s disconcerting that the Trump-Pence administration continues to nominate candidates who are as extreme as they are unqualified,” Stacy said in a statement. “Sam Clovis certainly fit that description, and while his nomination has today been withdrawn, it’s absolutely essential that the Senate reject the scores of other dangerous nominees this administration continues to push forward.”
CREDO, a social change network advocating for progressive policies, issued its own statement celebrating Clovis’ withdrawal.
“The Trump campaign’s shady connections to Russia just sank another monster in Trump’s swamp,” CREDO Deputy Political Director Josh Nelson said. “But the fact is, a racist climate change denier should never have been nominated to serve at the USDA in the first place. Clovis’ withdrawal is further evidence that Trump is more interested in vetting refugees fleeing violence than his own top campaign officials and government appointments.”
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