Clovis, the former Trump campaign aide tapped to be the Department of Agriculture’s chief scientist, withdrew his name from consideration on Thursday. “The political climate inside Washington has made it impossible for me to receive balanced and fair consideration for this position,” Clovis wrote in a letter to Trump, according to Politico. “The relentless assaults on you and your team seem to be a blood sport that only increases in intensity each day.”
Democrats had been licking their chops ahead of Clovis’s Senate confirmation hearing because he was vulnerable on two counts: his professional credentials, and his connection to the Russia scandal. As Politico notes, the position Clovis was nominated for “is supposed to be filled by someone drawn from ‘among distinguished scientists with specialized training or significant experience in agricultural research, education and economics.’ Clovis taught business administration and policy classes at Morningside College in Iowa before becoming Trump’s campaign co-chair.” Clovis, a former talk radio host, has said that climate science is “junk science” and “not proven.” He’s also a birther who has called progressives “race ‘traitors.’” Earlier this week, it was revealed that Clovis was the chief political patron of George Papadopoulos, the Trump foreign policy advisor who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with foreign nationals; it was Clovis who brought Papadopoulos into the Trump campaign.
It was the latter weakness, rather than the former, that sunk his nomination. Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont put a fine point on this fact with this acerbic statement: “Sam Clovis was almost a comically bad nominee, even for this administration. He is inarguably unqualified, and he is wrong on almost every major issue relevant to the chief scientist post to which he was nominated. His nomination is all too typical of the anti-science agenda and the know-nothingism pushed by President Trump and his administration. But President Trump already knew that when he nominated Mr. Clovis, and that is not why his nomination was abruptly pulled today. Not because of his association with birtherism or as a climate change denier, or his other repugnant assertions.” Clovis had committed the worst offense in Trump’s eyes: drawing more attention to a scandal that Trump is definitely not angry about.