The Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Devin Nunes says he is temporarily stepping down from the panel's investigation into alleged Russian hacking during the 2016 election campaign, after ethical complaints were lodged against him.
The Wisconsin Republican said he's confident that Nunes' replacements on the investigation will conduct "a professional investigation into Russia's actions and follow the facts wherever they lead". But it was actually the House Ethics Committee, a more powerful and selective body that requires a complaint from a House member to initiate an investigation, that declared that there needed to be a probe in to what Nunes knew and when he knew it.
Nunes has come under fire in recent weeks for speaking publicly about classified foreign surveillance reports he viewed on White House grounds. Nunes called the charges "entirely false and politically motivated", but said his recusal would be in effect while the House Ethics Committee looks into the matter.
Nunes said that it was in the intelligence committee's best interests for him to hand over leadership of the probe to Conaway during the ethics panel's inquiry.
He said he would continue to fulfill his other duties as committee chairman, but said Representative Mike Conaway will take charge of the investigation, with assistance from Representatives Trey Gowdy and Tom Rooney.
In a statement, Nunes said that Conaway along with Reps.
Nunes, who himself served on the Trump presidential transition team in 2016, had resisted calls to step down until now. "I did have plenty reason to think that [Nunes] should not be in that role, both because of his role in the Trump transition and because of his erratic and freakish behavior as chairman of the committee", she said on Thursday.
The surprise disclosure that Nunes was under investigation injected new uncertainty into the wider Russian Federation probe by his committee.
It is ironic that Mr. Nunes's carefully worded press briefing was done in part to root out the real scandal of who in the Obama Administration gave the media the unmasked name and classified conversations of Donald Trump's first National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn.
The next day at a hastily arranged news conference he announced he had learned that post-election communications of Mr Trump's team had been monitored by USA intelligence agencies as they snooped on foreign officials.
And just last month during a House Intelligence Committee hearing, Conaway set off on a peculiar line of questioning with FBI Director James Comey, comparing U.S.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, who previously said March 28 that he did not think Nunes should step down, defended Nunes' integrity but said he supports the decision.
"This investigation is of such importance that we have to get fully back on track". It also surprised his committee members because he'd mentioned nary a word while running their morning meeting.
"We have a fresh opportunity to move forward in the unified and non-partisan way that an investigation of this seriousness demands", he said.
Inskeep: If [Nunes] recuses himself, he remains chairman, and so that part of his work is taken over by Mike Conaway of Texas, I guess, who's the number two guy - or Peter King of NY who's the number three guy.