President Donald Trump’s former campaign aide, Sam Clovis, withdrew his name from consideration to lead the U.S.
Department of Agriculture’s research and education efforts after news surfaced that he encouraged his former colleague and Trump adviser George Papadopoulos to meet with Russian officials.
According to The Associated Press, Clovis told Trump that he didn’t want to be “a distraction or negative influence” amid the “relentless assaults on” Trump and his team.
Papadopoulos pleaded guilty on Monday to misleading the FBI regarding the Russia investigation.
In 2016, Papdopoulos told Clovis at least twice about arranging a meeting with Russian officials, according to The Washington Post:
At one point, Papadopoulos emailed Clovis and other campaign officials about a March 24, 2016, meeting he had in London with a professor, who had introduced him to the Russian ambassador and a Russian woman he described as “Putin’s niece.” The group had talked about arranging a meeting “between us and the Russian leadership to discuss U.S.-Russia ties under President Trump,” Papadopoulos wrote. (Papadopoulos later learned that the woman was not Putin’s niece, and while he expected to meet the ambassador, he never did, according to filings.)
Clovis responded that he would “work it through the campaign,” adding, “great work,” according to court documents.
In August 2016, Clovis responded to efforts by Papadopoulos to organize an “off the record” meeting with Russian officials. “I would encourage you” and another foreign policy adviser to the campaign to “make the trip, if it is feasible,” Clovis wrote.
It’s unclear who Trump will choose to replace Clovis as the administration faces scrutiny over indictments brought on Monday against former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his former business associate.
In his letter to Trump, Clovis described the “assaults” on Trump and his team as part of “a blood sport.”