US House Intel Committee Chairman Nunes Temporarily Steps Down From Russia Probe
16:41 06.04.2017(updated 19:57 06.04.2017)
US House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes has temporarily stepped down from the probe into President Donald Trump administration's alleged ties with Russia.
Nunes said that the decision was made due to "entirely false" accusations against him.
"Despite the baselessness of the charges, 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 stated.
He said that he wants to speak with the Office of Congressional Ethics as soon as possible to "expedite the dismissal of these false claims."
Meanwhile, the US House of Representatives Committee on Ethics announced on Thursday that it will investigate whether Nunes revealed classified information in connection with the committee's investigation into connections between President Donald Trump and the government of Russia.
"The committee is aware of public allegations that Representative Devin Nunes may have made unauthorized disclosures of classified information in violation of House Rules, law, regulations or other standards of conduct," the statement said. "The Committee, pursuant to Committee Rule 18(a), is investigating and gathering more information regarding these allegations."
On March 28, the groups Democracy 21 and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington asked the Office of Congressional Ethics for a preliminary inquiry into whether Nunes disclosed classified information in connection with the Russia investigation.
Earlier, many Democrats and at least one Republican in the US Congress have called for Nunes to recuse himself from the investigation.
Late March, the White House said that it sees nothing wrong in Congressman Nunes conducting the investigation into Russia and its alleged role in the 2016 US election.
Nunes has been criticized over the fact that he told reporters that the information about Trump team was "incidentally collected" during the transition period. Following the announcement, the intelligence committee chair visited the White House and briefed the US president on the findings. Later, Nunes explained why he decided to brief the press and US President Donald Trump on new intelligence information before telling the ranking Democrat on the committee.
These actions triggered immediate criticism of the panel's members, who have not been notified in advance about the additional documents related to Trump's wiretapping claim.
By surmising the surveillance may have been prompted by a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant, Nunes may have revealed classified information.
Last week, House Speaker Paul Ryan said that Nunes learned about the surveillance of Trump's presidential campaign team from a whistleblower source.
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