Nunes Steps Aside From House's Probe on Russia

Intelligence Committee chairman Nunes makes announcement after becoming entangled in ethical controversy over his handling of White House documents

Devin Nunes,Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, speaking about the investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016, March 24, 2017.
AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM

Chairman of the House of Representatives' Intelligence Committee Rep. Devin Nunes announced that he was stepping down from the investigation into the Trump campaign's ties with Russia on Thursday after a number of ethical complaints have been raised against him.

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The Republican representative from California found himself in the heart of a controversy after he claimed that a secret intelligence source has presented him with documents proving that there was some merit to President Trump's accusations that his predecessor Barack Obama had spied on him. Nunes said that he had presented these documents to the White House, but it was later revealed that it was the White House that originally showed the documents to him - while refusing to share them with other members of the House Intelligence Committee.

Nunes' conduct in handling the documents infuriated his colleagues in the Intelligence Committee, chief among them Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking member of the committee, who called on Nunes to recuse himself from the investigation. Following Nunes' announcement, Schiff put out a statement expressing support for that decision, and saying that it was in the best interest of the committee to proceed in the investigation without him. 

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has said that he fully supports Nunes' decison to step aside, and that the ethics charges against Nunes would have been "a distraction." Ryan said that he had full trust in the Republican who would replace Nunes in overseeing the investigation, Rep. Mike Conaway, to "oversee a professional investigation into Russia's actions and follow the facts where they lead." 

Last weekend, Rep. Schiff told Haaretz in an interview that Nunes' actions and coordination with the Trump White House had "cast a doubt over the committee's ability to conduct a credible investigation." He also said that the Trump-Russia investigation is "like nothing I've seen before. Nothing compares to it. It's completely unprecedented." Schiff said that Russia's actions before the U.S. 2016 election were similar to "things they have done before in Europe. If we don't protect ourselves, they'll do it again - to us and to our allies." 

After the scandal broke out Schiff viewed the same documents that Nunes had received from the White House but said that he did not share Nunes' conclusions. Schiff has been pressuring the White House over the last week to allow the entire membership of the Intelligence committee to go over them.