Under fire for his review of intelligence documents at the White House that paralyzed the work of his panel, the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee announced on Thursday that he would step aside as the leader of a probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 elections, appointing a team of three other GOP lawmakers to lead that investigation, while Nunes is investigated for possibly leaking classified information.
In a written statement, Nunes decried ethics charges leveled against him by “leftwing activist groups,” saying charges of wrongdoing were “entirely false and politically motivated.”
“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.
Not long after issuing his statement, the House Ethics Committee confirmed that it was going to review whether Nunes had made “unauthorized disclosures of classified information.”
In his own statement, Speaker Paul Ryan endorsed the move, and the decision to have Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX) lead the investigation.
“I am confident that he will oversee a professional investigation into Russia’s actions and follow the facts wherever they lead,” Ryan said.
Democrats said Nunes made the right choice.
“Good,” was the simple tweet from Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-CT).
“An important step in the right direction,” said Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), who like other Democrats have called for an independent probe.
“Nunes showed he was incapable of overseeing an independent investigation,” Nadler added.
Today’s developments stemmed from the events of a few weeks ago, when Nunes suddenly revealed that he had been given secret intelligence documents, as he announced that to reporters, and then dashed to the White House to brief President Trump.
In his remarks that day on Capitol Hill and at the White House, some thought that Nunes seemed to reveal classified information, as he confirmed the existence of a FISA wiretap – that drew outside ethics complaints, and now brings an official review from the Ethics Committee.