WASHINGTON – House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) plans to step aside from an investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election, involving communications between Moscow and President’s Donald Trump’s campaign.
Reps. Michael Conaway (R-Texas), Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) and Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) will take over the investigation.
Nunes said he will continue all other responsibilities as the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
Nunes was under fire for his decision last month to go to the White House grounds and look at classified information that suggested the Trump transition team may have been under indirect surveillance. He briefed Trump and held a news conference while not informing other intelligence committee members.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said he supports Nunes’ decision to step aside from the investigation and remains confident that it will be in good hands.
“Chairman Nunes has offered to step aside as the lead Republican on this particular probe, and I fully support this decision,” Ryan said in response to a question at a news conference on Thursday paraphrasing from a prepared statement.
“Representative Mike Conaway, a senior member of the Committee, will now lead this investigation with respect to House Republicans on the Intelligence Committee. I am confident that he will oversee a professional investigation into Russia’s actions and follow the facts wherever they may lead,” he continued.
Ryan rejected the assertion that Nunes mishandled the committee’s investigation.
“I don’t think that’s the case but I think Chairman Nunes wants to make sure this is not a distraction to a very important investigation so he wants to go clear himself while this investigation continues on without any kinds of distractions,” he explained.
Nunes in his statement of recusal suggested that the impetus for stepping aside was largely provoked by a barrage of ethics complaints filed by left-leaning groups ideologically opposed to his conservative principles.
“Several leftwing activist groups have filed accusations against me with the Office of Congressional Ethics. 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,” he said in the statement.
The committee’s ranking member Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who had previously requested that Nunes step aside, praised the chairman’s decision to recuse himself from the investigation.
“I think it is in the best interest of the investigation. It will, I think, allow us to have a fresh start moving forward,” Schiff told reporters Thursday.
The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence also is investigating Russian election interference and allegations of collusion between members of the Trump campaign and high-ranking Russian officials.