U.S. POLITICS

House intel committee chair Nunes steps away from Russia probe citing ethics complaints

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 April, 2017, 10:16pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 April, 2017, 11:11pm

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes said he is recusing himself from the panel’s investigation into Russian meddling in last year’s presidential election.

The California Republican has been criticised over his handling of classified material shown him by White House staff that allegedly indicated that Obama administration officials had “unmasked” the identities of people close to President Donald Trump who were mentioned in legal surveillance of foreign individuals.

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Nunes said he would “temporarily” hand oversight of the inquiry to Republican Representative Mike Conaway of Texas while the House Ethics Committee looks into complaints filed against him. Nunes said he would continue to serve as the committee chairman and lead it in other matters.

“Several left-wing activist groups have filed accusations against me with the Office of Congressional Ethics,” Nunes said on Thursday in an emailed statement. “The charges are entirely false and politically motivated, and are being levelled just as the American people are beginning to learn the truth about the improper unmasking of the identities of US citizens and other abuses of power.”

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As multiple investigations into Russia’s meddling in the presidential election have gained steam, the Trump administration and its allies in Congress have accused the Obama administration of seeking names of US citizens caught up in surveillance of foreign nationals for political purposes. The former president and his aides have flatly denied doing so.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said Nunes has “followed all proper guidelines and laws” and “continues” to have his trust. But, he added, “it is clear that this process would be a distraction for the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation into Russian interference in our election.” He said he’s confident that Conaway will oversee a “professional investigation” into Russia’s actions.

Additional reporting by Associated Press