Donald Trump's unqualified USDA chief scientist nominee withdraws, cites "political climate"

Clovis openly admitted that he lacked scientific qualifications during his confirmation hearing

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published November 2, 2017 11:43AM (EDT)

 Sam Clovis (AP/Charlie Neibergall)
Sam Clovis (AP/Charlie Neibergall)

Sam Clovis, the former right-wing radio talk host who President Donald Trump nominated to be the Department of Agriculture's chief scientist, has withdrawn his name from consideration.

Clovis was a controversial nominee for a number of reasons. Unlike most chief scientists at the USDA, Clovis lacked any advanced degree in science or medicine, according to The Washington Post. Although he had a bachelor's degree in political science, an MBA degree and a doctorate in public administration, he admitted in a letter to the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee’s top Democrat, Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow, that he had no academic qualifications for the science post.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Clovis did not mention this problem when he wrote his letter withdrawing his nomination to Trump.

"The political climate inside Washington has made it impossible for me to receive balanced and fair consideration for this position," Clovis wrote. "The relentless assaults on you and your team seem to be a blood sport that only increases in intensity each day."

Clovis may have been referring to the fact that George Papadopoulos, a former adviser to the Trump campaign, pleaded guilty about lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia. Clovis had been Papadopoulos' supervisor, since he served as the Trump campaign's national co-chairman, and Papadopoulos claimed that he was told by Clovis that the Trump campaign was prioritizing improving America's relationship with Russia.

Clovis' lawyer, by contrast, claimed that Papadopoulos had "attended one meeting and was never otherwise approached by the campaign for consultation" and that "Dr. Clovis has not communicated with Mr. Papadopoulos since prior to the 2016 election."

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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Department Of Agriculture Donald Trump Sam Clovis Usda