Trump’s ag chief nominee withdraws amid alleged ties to Russia probe

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Sam Clovis, Trump’s nominee to head the Department of Agriculture, withdrew his name from consideration Wednesday in light of his ties to the Russia probe potentially being unveiled in a plea agreement made with the FBI by former Trump adviser George Papadopoulos.

Papadopoulos’ guilty plea has many within the Trump camp feeling uneasy, as they are unsure of what the foreign policy adviser could be saying while cooperating with the FBI. Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and his right-hand man, Rick Gates, both pled not guilty to charges leveled this week as a result of the investigation.

Sam Clovis, Trump’s controversial choice to become the Department of Agriculture’s chief scientist, had already faced opposition in the Senate due to incendiary comments he had made in the past. Democrats had also questioned his qualifications to assume the position.

Special counsel Robert Mueller charged another former Trump campaign adviser, George Papadopoulos, with making false statements to FBI agents after Papadopoulos lied about the nature of his contacts with Russians during his time advising the campaign. Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to the charges and is cooperating with investigators.

His plea agreement describes contact with unnamed campaign officials, some of whom encouraged Papadopoulos to continue his outreach to Russians who had promised damaging information on Hillary Clinton. People familiar with the structure of the foreign policy advisory board on which Papadopoulos served have said Clovis, who hastily assembled the board last year amid questions about Trump’s foreign policy knowledge, would have been the supervisor described several times in the plea agreement.

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