In a sign of the growing intensity of special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, Sam Clovis—the president's pick to fill the chief scientist spot at the U.S. Department of Agriculture—withdrew his name from consideration for the position on Thursday, saying the "political climate in Washington" would make it "impossible for [him] to receive balanced and fair consideration for this position."
Along with being "extraordinarily unqualified" for the position Trump chose him to fill, Clovis "was among top officials on the Trump campaign who was aware of efforts by foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos to broker a relationship between the campaign and Russian officials," the Washington Post reported on Thursday, citing court documents.
— ProPublica (@ProPublica) November 2, 2017
As NBC News reported on Tuesday, Clovis was questioned last week by Mueller's team and testified before his grand jury.
While Clovis will remain in his role as senior White House adviser to the USDA, CNN notes that his decision to withdraw from the running for a more prominent post is "the latest sign that Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into the Trump campaign and Russian collusion is impacting the day-to-day of Trump's administration, despite top White House aides—including Trump himself—claiming that the indictments of former top Trump campaign advisers Paul Manafort and Rick Gates had nothing to do with the administration or the campaign."
Clovis's withdrawal comes as a Washington Post/ABC poll published Thursday indicates that most Americans approve of the way Mueller is handling the Russia probe, while 49 percent of the public thinks "it is likely Trump himself committed a crime in connection with possible Russian attempts to influence the election."
In addition, 68 percent of Americans support the indictment of Manafort and Gates, and 51 percent think Trump is "not cooperating" with Mueller's probe.