Roberts declines to discuss Clovis as Stabenow makes statement | TheFencePost.com

Roberts declines to discuss Clovis as Stabenow makes statement

Roberts declines to discuss Clovis as Stabenow makes statement

Sam Clovis

As controversy involving the Russian election scandal swirled around Sam Clovis, President Donald Trump's nominee for a high-level Agriculture Department position, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., declined to discuss Clovis while Senate Agriculture ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., issued a statement reiterating that she opposes his nomination.

Clovis, a co-chairman of Trump's presidential campaign, has long been controversial for the remarks he has made about race and about some farm programs when he was a professor and talk show host in Iowa. But on Oct. 30, after it was revealed that campaign aide George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to making false statements and has cooperated with the Federal Bureau of Investigation into the Russian role in the election, The Washington Post reported Clovis wrote Papadopoulos in an email: "Make the trip, if it is feasible."

The Post story also revealed Clovis has hired Victoria Toensing, a prominent Washington attorney, to represent him. Toensing told the Post her client "always vigorously opposed any Russian trip for Donald Trump and/or the campaign." She said his responses to Papadopoulos were a courtesy by "a polite gentleman from Iowa."

Clovis is now a White House adviser to the Agriculture Department, but Trump nominated him for agriculture undersecretary for research, education and economics — a position that also holds the title of USDA chief scientist.

Asked after a U.S. Chamber of Commerce event about Clovis' situation, Roberts said, "We will have a confirmation hearing. That is all I can say."

Roberts has said the hearing will be Nov. 9, but on Oct. 31 he did not mention the date. A spokeswoman also declined to confirm the date.

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Stabenow told The Hagstrom Report in an email, "From early on, I have strongly opposed the nomination of Sam Clovis to be the chief scientist at USDA. The emerging information about his role in the Trump campaign's interactions with Russia raises serious concerns. As we consider his nomination, I will be looking into these facts, along with his questionable qualifications and long history of divisive and outrageous statements."

The controversies about Clovis led to a rare question about a USDA nominee at the White House press briefing.

A reporter asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the press secretary:

"President Trump's nominee to serve as chief science adviser over at the Agriculture Department is Sam Clovis, and Clovis was the campaign supervisor cited in that Papadopoulos plea. And his lawyer has since acknowledged that he was the one in that plea who encouraged Papadopoulos in August 2016 to make a trip to Russia to meet with Russia officials about the campaign. Given all that, is the president still comfortable with him, Sam Clovis, serving in the administration?"

Sanders replied, "I'm not aware that any change would be necessary at this time."

And Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, revealed to rural reporters that Clovis has been meeting with the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which is conducting its own investigation into Russian interference with last year's election.

"At this point, I would just have to say we have got to let nature take its course," Grassley said in response to a question from DTN: The Progressive Farmer. "He is cooperating with the Committee on Senate Intelligence, and I think that cooperation is very important. You won't really know until you get to the end of it, and of course, to answer your question: It's one of the reasons we have hearings."

The Union of Concerned Scientists sent the Senate Agriculture Committee a letter signed by 3,100 scientists opposing Clovis, and the Center for Science in Public Interest also sent a letter in opposition. ❖

MSNBC devotes attention to Clovis

MSNBC devoted substantial attention to the situation of Sam Clovis, President Donald Trump’s nominee for Agriculture undersecretary for research, education and economics, on Tuesday evening and questioned whether the nomination will go forward.

Clovis, who was co-chair of the Trump presidential campaign, has been implicated in the scandal involving Russian influence in the election.

The network reported Clovis was questioned by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team and also testified before the investigating grand jury.

There was a particularly long discussion on “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell.” On that program, analysts speculated Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and other Democrats would ask lots of questions about the Russia connection if a confirmation hearing is held.

— The Hagstrom Report