Sen. Debbie Stabenow, ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, wants Sam Clovis to answer some questions about his role in the Trump campaign's efforts to meet with Russian officials.
Clovis is the Trump administration's nominee to be USDA undersecretary for Research, Education and Economics. Clovis' nomination is opposed by more than 3,100 scientists who view him as unqualified for the job of USDA's chief scientist. But Clovis' national name recognition vaulted in the political spectrum this week after revelations in the unsealed court records over George Papadopoulos' guilty plea Monday.
Stabenow, D-Mich., wrote a letter Wednesday to Clovis, now a senior White House advisor, stating she had questions regarding Clovis' work last year as co-chairman of the Trump campaign and his involvement as the campaign supervisor who encouraged a foreign-policy advisor to communicate with Russians.
Stabenow asked Clovis in the letter to respond to reports he is cooperating with the special prosecutor in the Russian investigation, Robert Mueller. "It has been reported that you have been contacted and interviewed by the Special Counsel as part of its investigation. Is this true? If so, have you cooperated with these inquiries?"
Senators, including Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, had also said earlier this week that Clovis had met with the Senate Intelligence Committee about the Russian investigation.
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Stabenow's letter cited court documented filed in the guilty plea by Papadopoulos for lying to the FBI. Papadopoulos told the FBI about arranging a meeting in August 2016 with Russian officials and an unnamed campaign supervisor wrote, "I would encourage you to make the trip, if it is feasible." Clovis' attorney confirmed to the Washington Post that Clovis was that supervisor.
Stabenow asked Clovis, "Why did you encourage Mr. Papadopoulos 'to make the trip' to meet with these Russian officials? And she asked, "Did you have any other discussions or communications during the campaign with Trump campaign officials, affiliates, or staff regarding communications with Russian nationals or officials?"
Earlier in the campaign, Papadopoulos stated he had discussed with a Russian national, who Papadopoulos believed was Russian President Vladimir Putin's niece, about a meeting "Between us and Russian leadership to discuss U.S.-Russia ties under President Trump.” After Papadopoulos emailed campaign officials about this offer, Papadopoulos' campaign supervisor was cited in the court documents as stating he would “work it through the campaign” and then complimented Papadopoulos on “great work.”
Stabenow asked in her letter, "In what manner, and with whom, did you “work it through the campaign”? What was the result of these efforts? "
She added, "Why did you tell Mr. Papadopoulos that his efforts to facilitate meetings with Russian leadership “to discuss U.S.-Russia ties under President Trump” was “great work”? Did calling it “great work” signify that it was a goal of the campaign to set up meetings with Russians outside official channels?
And Stabenow also asked Clovis, "Did you have any other discussions or communications during the campaign with Trump campaign officials, affiliates, or staff regarding meetings with Russian nationals or officials?"
Stabenow asked in the letter Clovis to respond to her questions by Nov. 6.
The Senate Agriculture Committee had planned to announce a Nov. 9 confirmation hearing on Clovis. That announcement was delayed after Monday's guilty plea by Papadopoulos -- and indictment of two other former Trump campaign staffers.
Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com
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