After a mysterious late-night excursion to the White House to view intelligence — and a subsequent briefing with President Donald Trump – brought into question his ability to lead an independent investigation of Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election and ties between the Trump campaign and Russia operatives, House Intelligence Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., said Tuesday he will relinquish leadership of the investigation.
“I believe it is in the best interests of the House Intelligence Committee and the Congress for me to have Representative Mike Conaway, with assistance from Representatives Trey Gowdy and Tom Rooney, temporarily take charge of the Committee’s Russia investigation while the House Ethics Committee looks into this matter,” Nunes said in a statement of his decision to temporarily step aside.
Nunes said a series of what he called “false” ethics complaints filed against him compromised his ability to lead the investigation. House Speaker Paul Ryan, (R-Wis.), said in a statement that as Nunes went through the steps to resolve those complaints with the Ethics Committee “would be a distraction for the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation into Russian interference in our election. Chairman Nunes has offered to step aside as the lead Republican on this probe, and I fully support this decision.”
Republicans and Democrats alike had called for Nunes to recuse himself from the investigation after the late-night jaunt, the briefing of the president who is one target of the investigation and the failure to share the intelligence he viewed with other members of his committee.
Moveon.org was one of the groups who in late March filed an ethics complaint with the House Office of Congressional Ethics against Nunes for violating the Espionage Act “by disclosing classified information without the authorization required by House rules or any other proper authorization.”
Committee Ranking Democrat Rep. Adam Schiff, who had called for Nunes to recuse himself, commended him for what he said “was not an easy decision.” Saying that he looked forward to getting the investigation back on track, Schiff said the committee had “a fresh opportunity to move forward in the unified and nonpartisan way that an investigation of this seriousness demands.”