President Trump’s nomineee for U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief scientist, Sam Clovis, has withdrawn himself from consideration on Wednesday over his connection to the Russia investigation.
Clovis, who has no experience in agriculture or the sciences, was among the Trump campaign officials aware of foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos’s attempt to facilitate a relationship between the campaign and Russian officials.
Court documents were unsealed earlier this week that showed Papadopoulos pleaded guilty last month to making false statement to FBI investigators who were questioning his Russian connections. Clovis encouraged such meetings and has reportedly met privately with investigator Robert Mueller.
Senate Democrats had been threatening to block his nomination over his climate change denial, his promotion of the birther conspiracy theory claiming former president Barack Obama wasn’t born in America, and for his anti-LGBTQ statements.
“President Trump should withdraw the Clovis nomination immediately — not only because he is a proud ‘skeptic’ of climate change and wildly unqualified…but also as a gesture to the American people that this administration is serious about rooting out the most hateful voices in our society,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Brian Schatz in a joint statement.
Clovis has said that being gay is a choice, and that the LGBTQ community is not deserving of equal protections under the law, and suggested granting LGBTQ rights could lead to legalized pedophilia.
While the White House has accepted Clovis’s withdrawal from consideration for the top scientist job, he isn’t gone for good. He will stay on in his current job at the USDA, as senior White House adviser.
“I will remain a devoted and loyal supporter and will continue to serve at the pleasure of you and the Secretary of Agriculture,” he wrote in his letter, which the USDA has confirmed to The Washington Post.
“Sam Clovis has opposed equality for LGBTQ people at practically every turn and even pushed the unscientific nonsense that being LGBTQ is a choice,” said HRC Government Affairs Director David Stacy in an emailed statement.
“It’s disconcerting that the Trump-Pence administration continues to nominate candidates who are as extreme as they are unqualified. Sam Clovis certainly fit that description, and while his nomination has today been withdrawn, it’s absolutely essential that the Senate reject the scores of other dangerous nominees this administration continues to push forward.”