As Washington continues to reel from the first indictments of Robert Mueller’s Russian investigation, three influential Senate Democrats have now publically spoken about their “serious concerns” regarding Sam Clovis’ nomination to be the Department of Agriculture’s chief scientist.
You would have thought that the fact that Clovis is not actually a scientist would have barred him from getting anywhere near the job, but these are not normal times.
But the tide is now turning against him. Now that it has emerged that Clovis is embroiled in the Russia scandal, more Senators are speaking publicly against this nomination.
The latest to speak out is Senator Heitkamp, who had been sitting on the fence but is now committing to a “no” vote on Clovis next week at a crucial session of the Senate Agriculture Committee, where Clovis is set to appear for his confirmation hearing.
Heitkamp put out a statement to POLITICO and said: “Sam Clovis is uniquely unqualified to serve as USDA’s top scientist, and his confirmation would be harmful to North Dakota’s farmers, ranchers, and rural communities …I’ll oppose his nomination.”
Another to speak out is Senator Debbie Stabenow, who is the top Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee: “The emerging information about his role in the Trump campaign’s interactions with Russia raises serious concerns,” said Stabenow, who is the Senator for Michigan in a statement to USA TODAY.
In a follow up statement she added: “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. ”
Senator Patrick Leahy, from Vermont, has also issued a statement saying: “If his anti-science record were not enough cause for concern, the latest reporting suggesting that Mr. Clovis may have facilitated Russian collusion in our elections raises these concerns to an alarming level. Even for this administration, that should be disqualifying.”
He later reconfirmed his opposition to Clovis on Twitter due to the latter’s “complete lack of qualifications for this science post. It fits the Trump adm.’s anti-science agenda.”
Their comments and Clovis’ role in any dodgy Russian dealings will add to the disquiet about Clovis’ nomination which has been steadily growing for months, due to the fact he has no scientific credentials, is a long-term climate change denier and has made controversial and offensive statements in his former role as a right-wing radio host.
Yesterday, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) issued a press release stating that over 3,100 scientists from 50 states as well as the District of Columbia had released a letter opposing Clovis’ nomination.
Mike Lavender, senior Washington representative for the Food and Environment Program at UCS said: “The list of reasons why Sam Clovis is unfit to serve as the USDA’s chief scientist is already long: He fails to meet even the most basic qualifications for the position as defined by Congress; he rejects mainstream climate science; he has made racist and homophobic comments and embraces conspiracy theories; and he has questioned the necessity of a basic farmer safety net.”
He continued: “Now, emerging evidence of Clovis’ potential involvement with the Trump campaign’s Russian connections should be the final nail in the coffin for his confirmation.”
Clovis certainly seems to have questions that need to be answered over Russia.
The Washington Post noted that ex-Trump aide, George Papadopoulos, who seems to now be being used by the authorities to catch more senior Trump officials, communicated with several senior campaign officials about his outreach to the Russian government over a period of months.
Although the recipients of Papadopoulos’s emails are not named in the filings, “Victoria Toensing, an attorney for Sam Clovis, confirmed that several references in court filings to ‘the campaign supervisor’ refer to the onetime radio host from Iowa, who served as Trump’s national campaign co-chairman.”
According to the Post, Clovis “praised Papadopoulos’s efforts to broker a meeting with the Russians as ‘great work’ and later urged Papadopoulos to make the trip rather than Trump.
Clovis is reported to have told Papadopoulos: “Make the trip, if it is feasible.”
Other media outlets are reporting that “Clovis made clear that a rapprochement with Russia was ‘a principal foreign policy focus’ for the Trump campaign.
Clovis is now said to be “a fully cooperative witness” in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to POLITICO. Clovis has apparently been questioned by Mueller’s team and has also testified before Mueller’s grand jury.
Despite this it seems that Clovis’ confirmation hearing is still set to go ahead. But the controversy around his nomination has only grown, and it should get really interesting next week when the hearing is due to start on the 9th.
ClimateTruth’s petition to tell the Senate to “Reject racist and climate-denying Clovis for top USDA science position” is here.
Feel free to sign if you so wish.