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Trump Pick For Agriculture Post Withdraws In Light Of Ties To Russia Probe

U.S. President Donald Trump (left) with Sam Clovis in 2015.

U.S. President Donald Trump's nominee for a top post at the Agriculture Department withdrew from consideration on November 2 after his name was tied to an investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Sam Clovis, Trump's pick for top scientist at the Agriculture Department, came under fire after it was revealed that he had encouraged a Trump foreign policy adviser, George Papadopoulos, to reach out to the Russians during last year's presidential campaign.

Papadopoulos pleaded guilty on October 30 to lying to investigators about efforts to set up meetings between the top campaign officials and Russians.

Clovis's name was not mentioned in the Papadopoulos case's court documents, but U.S. media have identified him as Papadopoulos's supervisor in the campaign.

Clovis was the Trump campaign's national co-chairman in 2016.

The Reuters news agency quoted a source familiar with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation as identifying Clovis as the unnamed campaign supervisor in a court filing who had discussions with Papadopoulos about efforts to improve U.S.-Russian relations and setting up meetings between the campaign and Russian officials.

"The political climate inside Washington has made it impossible for me to receive balanced and fair consideration for this position," Clovis said in a letter to Trump on November 2.

"The relentless assaults on you and your team seem to be a blood sport that only increases in intensity each day. As I am focused on your success and the success of this administration, I do not want to be a distraction or negative influence, particularly with so much important work left to do for the American people," he said.

The White House said it respected Clovis' decision to step aside.

Clovis had also been criticized for being named to the post despite his lack of scientific experience.

Based on reporting by dpa and Reuters