Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, on Wednesday said scheduled testimony by Sam Clovis, President Donald Trump’s pick to serve as the U.S. Agriculture Department’s chief scientist, could be pushed back.
Yahoo News reported Monday that Clovis, Trump’s former campaign co-chair, was one of the campaign officials corresponding with Trump’s former campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, who Clovis supervised during the campaign.
On a call with Iowa reporters, Grassley said that Clovis’ testimony before the Senate Agriculture Committee—scheduled for Nov. 9—could be pushed back, according to a report by the Des Moines Register.
Grassley, who also serves on that Senate panel, said that he is nevertheless still backing Clovis’ nomination.
He said it was “too early” to say whether he thought Clovis would face legal consequences, but said that he had reviewed emails from the Trump campaign that Grassley said gave a fuller account of Clovis’ and Papadopoulos’ interactions and led him to believe it was “not an issue.”
“There’s an entirely different context than what was reported about Clovis and his relationship to this George P.,” Grassley said, according to the report.
Papadopoulos pleaded guilty in early October to lying to the FBI about his communications with Russian nationals, which Papadopoulos told other members of Trump’s campaign about in a series of emails.
According to court documents unsealed on Monday, Clovis praised Papadopoulos for doing “great work” by reaching out to Russians who wanted to set up a meeting with Trump’s campaign. In August 2016, Clovis also said he “would encourage” Papadopoulos to set up an “off the record” meeting with Russian officials.
NBC News reported on Tuesday that special counsel Robert Mueller’s team questioned Clovis last week.
Clovis, who Trump nominated to be the USDA’s top scientist, is a non-scientist and open skeptic of climate change.