Devin Nunes steps down from leading the House’s Russia probe after string of controversies
- Nunes slams “left-wing activist groups” for filing ethics charges
- Republican Rep. Mike Conaway of Texas will take over the House Russia investigation
After a mysterious late-night trip to the White House and an abruptly cancelled hearing on Russia last week, Rep. Devin Nunes stepped down Thursday as head of the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation into Russian interference in the presidential election.
Nunes, a Republican from California and a Trump surrogate, announced Thursday that he will step aside from his role chairing the House’s investigation. Although Nunes will still remain in charge of the committee, Republican Rep. Mike Conaway of Texas will take Nunes’ place overseeing the Russia investigation with assistance from Republicans Tom Rooney of Florida and Trey Gowdy of South Carolina.
In a statement announcing his move, Nunes lashed out at what he called “left-wing activist groups” for filing complaints against him with the Office of Congressional Ethics. “Despite the baselessness of the charges, I believe it is in the best interests of the House Intelligence Committee and the Congress” to temporarily step down.
Nunes has come under fire from Democrats and some Republicans in recent weeks after a series of press conferences where he claimed that he had seen intelligence indicating that the Obama administration inadvertently gathered information on Donald Trump and his associates through surveillance of other officials. Nunes had viewed that intelligence after a late-night invitation from White House aides and broke protocol by not informing his Democratic counterpart on the committee, Rep. Adam Schiff, also from California.
Nunes then canceled a series of private and public hearings for the Russia investigation and declined to schedule any new ones. Democrats on the House’s committee accused Nunes of becoming a political tool of the Trump administration — rather than leading an independent investigation — and called on him to step down.
House Speaker Paul Ryan said that he “fully support[s] this decision” and that the ethics complaints against Nunes would “be a distraction.” Schiff also praised Nunes for providing a “fresh opportunity to move forward in the unified and nonpartisan way that an investigation of this seriousness demands.” He had previously called on Nunes to step down.
The Senate Intelligence Committee is also conducting its own investigation into Russia, which has notably been absent from the partisan brawling over the House’s inquiry. Last week, the Republican chairman of the Senate committee Richard Burr of North Carolina and Democrat Ranking Member Mark Warner of Virginia gave a joint press conference in an effort to assure the public that they would work closely together.
And that’s not to mention the FBI’s investigation into Russia — which includes whether any members of the Trump campaign or administration colluded with the country to influence the election.