White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Tuesday afternoon indicated that the administration will stand by Sam Clovis as the nominee to be the top scientist at the Agriculture Department, even though court documents and subsequent news reports revealed that Clovis encouraged a Trump campaign staffer to travel to Russia to meet with government officials.
“I’m not aware that any change would be necessary at this time,” Sanders told reporters at the daily press briefing when asked about the status of Clovis’ nomination.
Earlier on Tuesday, Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Pat Roberts (R-KS), who oversees USDA nominations, told Politico that his plans to hold Clovis’ confirmation hearing on Nov. 9 has not changed.
“I don’t think he’s a target of any investigation,” Roberts said.
Court documents from the guilty plea of George Papadopolous, a foreign policy adviser to Trump’s campaign, revealed that a “campaign supervisor” encouraged Papadopolous to travel to Russia. The Washington Post identified the “campaign supervisor” as Clovis, and his attorney, Victoria Toensing, confirmed it. Toensing told the Post that Clovis “always vigorously opposed any Russian trip for Donald Trump and/or the campaign” and that his emails to Papadopoulos were the result of him being “a polite gentleman from Iowa.”
Since the release of court documents on Monday, the White House has downplayed Papadopolous’ role in the campaign. On Tuesday, Sanders told reporters that Papadopolous lied to federal investigators, which should reflect on him, not on the campaign. She added that the Trump campaign cooperated with the federal probe and handed over Papadopolous’ emails to investigators.