Devin Nunes, the chairman of the House intelligence committee, announced on Thursday that he is temporarily stepping aside from the panel’s investigation into Russian meddling in last year’s presidential election.
Nunes’ decision came the same day that the House Ethics Committee confirmed that it is investigating allegations that the California Republican “may have made unauthorized disclosures of classified information.”
Many critics of Nunes feel he is too close to the White House and cannot lead an impartial inquiry after serving on Trump’s transition team.
Nunes himself remained defiant while bowing to the political realities of his situation. “Several leftwing activist groups have filed accusations against me with the Office of Congressional Ethics,” Nunes said in a statement. “The charges are entirely false and politically motivated, and are being leveled just as the American people are beginning to learn the truth about the improper unmasking of the identities of U.S. citizens and other abuses of power.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan supports the decision and prefers GOP Rep. Mike Conaway of Texas temporarily taking over the investigation while the House Ethics Committee looks into the issue surrounding Nunes.
“It is clear that this process would be a distraction for the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation into Russian interference in our election,” Ryan said.
Political watchdog groups Democracy 21 and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington claim Nunes violated House ethics rules when he publicly disclosed information he learned by viewing classified material after secretly meeting with White House officials last month.
— Jim Sciutto (@jimsciutto) April 6, 2017