White House Stands By USDA Nom Clovis Despite His Emails With Papadopolous

Sam Clovis at campaign rally for Jodi Ernst

Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to FBI officials about his contacts with Russians he believed had links to the Kremlin during the campaign, one of the first prosecutions in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Clovis' nomination hearing gives Democrats an opportunity to ask him about his role or anything he knew about the campaign's Russian Federation outreach.

According to those documents, Papadopoulos corresponded with an unnamed individual - identified only as a "campaign supervisor" - in March regarding his contact with a foreign professor and a Russian woman about setting up a meeting between Russian officials and the campaign.

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The scientists also pointed to a 2014 interview in which Clovis questioned the scientific basis of climate change, saying: "I have looked at the science and I have enough of a science background to know when I'm being boofed". Coinciding with emerging evidence of Clovis' involvement with Russian officials during the Trump campaign, the letter calls the nomination of Clovis to be undersecretary for research, education and economics (which includes the role of chief scientist) "an abandonment of our nation's commitment to scientifically informed governance", and urges the Senate Agriculture Committee to reject it.

Clovis took a leave of absence from his position at Morningside College in 2015 to join the Trump campaign as a chief policy adviser. His involvement in campaign discussions about Russian Federation "is definitely a concern to us", said an aide to a Democratic member of the Agriculture Committee.

"It's certainly worth looking into", the aide said.

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The Trump campaign asked Clovis to put together a national security advisory committee, according to an emailed statement from law firm diGenova & Toensing, which is representing Clovis.

"Given the importance of climate change to the future of USA agriculture, this comment alone should disqualify Mr. Clovis", the scientists said. "Among the members was George Papadopoulos who attended one meeting and was never otherwise approached by the campaign for consultation", Clovis attorney Victoria Toensing said in a statement Tuesday. The meeting did not ultimately take place. "Great work", the supervisor is quoted as telling Papadopoulos.

However, attorney Toensing said, "Dr. Clovis never told Mr. Papadopoulos that "a principal foreign policy focus of the campaign was an improved US relationship with Russia" because that was not Dr. Clovis's view of the Trump campaign's foreign policy priorities".

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"If a volunteer made suggestions on any foreign policy matter, Dr. Clovis, a polite gentleman from Iowa, would have expressed courtesy and appreciation", the statement reads.

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