There was a disturbance in the Intertubes a while back, when President* Trump nominated non-scientist Sam Clovis to fill the chief scientist shoes over at the US Department of Agriculture. At the time, that little “non-scientist” thing was the main point of contention. Now it looks like Clovis is in hot water over the Trump presidential campaign’s ties to Russia, and his nomination could be all but kaput.
Keep in mind that the USDA science chief oversees research that protects the nation’s food supply, and you can see what the excitement is all about (USDA is also front and center in biofuel research with an eye on national defense but that’s a whole ‘nother can of worms).
Trump Taps Non-Scientist For USDA Head of Research
Coincidentally, the news about Clovis’s involvement with Russia broke on Tuesday, when the folks over at the Union of Concerned Scientists were still concerned only with Clovis’s qualifications, or lack thereof.
The organization had already organized a phone-your-legislator drive against Clovis’s USDA nomination, citing these issues:
He’s a climate denier with no training in science, food, or agriculture and a promoter of racist and homophobic conspiracy theories.
UCS also asked its supporters to write letters to their representatives. In particular, UCS suggested that supporters point out that the USDA nomination is apparently illegal:
US law requires that this position be filled by a scientist. Sam Clovis lacks the experience and training required to oversee the USDA’s important science work.
The next step was a joint letter in opposition. Signed by more than 3,100 scientists, it was set to be delivered and announced on Tuesday. When Clovis’s Russia ties came up, UCS added this observation to its press release:
Now, emerging evidence of Clovis’ potential involvement with the Trump campaign’s Russian connections should be the final nail in the coffin for his confirmation. At virtually every point in his career, Clovis has failed to display the judgment needed to manage the responsible investment of billions of dollars in taxpayer money in a safe, sustainable, productive food system.
The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming!
That brings us right around to the Russia connection. To those of you new to the topic, various federal agencies have been taking a look at the hand that Russia played in influencing the 2016 presidential campaign, and it looks like things are coming to a head.
On Tuesday, word leaked out that USDA nominee Sam Clovis was among those interviewed by Special Counsel Robert Muller, in front of a grand jury no less.
NBC has the scoop:
Toensing confirmed that Clovis was the campaign supervisor in the emails. Clovis, a former Air Force officer and Pentagon official who unsuccessfully ran for Iowa State Treasurer in 2014, was the Trump campaign’s chief policy adviser and national co-chairman.
For those of you keeping score at home, Victoria Toensing is the lawyer representing Clovis, “campaign supervisor” apparently refers to Clovis. “Emails” refers to communications between another Trump campaign official, George Papadopoulos, and persons reportedly working with Russian officials.
According to multiple reports, Papadopoulos been spilling the Russian beans to Muller’s team over the past several weeks.
Here’s the recap from NBC:
The court documents unsealed Monday describe emails between Papadopoulos and an unnamed “campaign supervisor.” The supervisor responded “Great work” after Papadopoulos discussed his interactions with Russians who wanted to arrange a meeting with Trump and Russian leaders.
There — all caught up!
What Now, Sonny Perdue?
Meanwhile, all this uproar over Clovis is bound to ripple over to his would-be boss, the current Secretary of Agriculture and former Georgia governor Sonny Perdue.
When Perdue was nominated to lead the USDA last spring, the New York Times noted his history of ethics violations as governor:
[Perdue] became a target of frequent criticism that he was failing to honor his own ethics pledge during his eight years as governor. The criticism centers on the fact that, as Mr. Trump has, he continued to own or help run his family business ventures — four farming-related companies — while serving as governor.
Upon leaving office in 2011, Perdue launched Perdue Partners, LLC. Here’s a snippet from the company’s press release:
Perdue Partners, LLC (www.perduepartners.com) is an Atlanta-based global trading company that facilitates U.S. commerce, with an emphasis on the export of U.S. goods and services, through trading, partnerships, consulting services, and strategic acquisitions.
The press release highlights four of the juiciest export markets for Perdue Partners, one of those being Russia:
Consumer spending in Emerging Market Economies is anticipated to grow by an annual average rate of 10.4 percent between 2010 and 2020 with China, India, Brazil and Russia being the largest consumer markets, according to the Euro Monitor International.
So, there’s that.
And, there’s this press release from the Office of Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue, June 8, 2004:
Governor Sonny Perdue and First Lady Mary Perdue today greeted President Vladimir Putin of Russia upon his arrival at Hunter Army Air Field. Governor Perdue was joined by Senator Zell Miller, Senator and Mrs. Saxby Chambliss, Congressman Jack Kingston, Congressman and Mrs. Max Burns, Savannah Mayor Otis Johnson, and General Webster, Base Commander of Ft. Stewart . President and Mrs. Putin were also greeted by students from White Bluff Elementary School, located in Savannah, GA, waving American and Russian flags. The third graders presented President and Mrs. Putin with a gift basket and flowers and were given commemorative G8 lapel pins by Governor and Mrs. Perdue.
Photo (cropped): via USDA.
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