Nunes steps down from Russian Federation probe, cites 'entirely false' ethics accusations



A big developing story here in Washington this morning, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee is stepping aside from his committee's investigation into Russian attempts to meddle with the 2016 US presidential election.

Republican Rep. Devin Nunes of California, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, has removed himself from the investigation into whether Russian Federation colluded with the successful presidential campaign of President Donald Trump.

"The Committee notes that the mere fact that it is investigating these allegations, and publicly disclosing its review, does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred, or reflect any judgment on behalf of the Committee", the House Ethics Committee said in a statement today.

However, Mr Nunes at one point during a March 22 news conference said that what he was discussing was "all classified information".

Devin Nunes (Republican-California) on April 6 said he was recusing himself from the investigation because of complaints of impropriety that have been filed against him with the Office of Congressional Ethics.

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. Nunes said he planned to speak with the committee "at the earliest possible opportunity" to hasten the dismissal of the false claims. Nunes denied the allegations.

Nunes said the calls for him to step aside were "politically motivated".

The inquiry by the full 10-member ethics panel could face one complication: Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., serves on the ethics committee and has been tapped by House Speaker Paul Ryan to help Conaway lead the Russian Federation probe.

But Nunes had refused to step aside even as the committee's top Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff, said it would be hard, if not impossible, to conduct a "credible investigation" as long as Nunes refused to share the information he had obtained with the rest of the committee. "There was a cloud hanging over us after the White House incident", Schiff told The Associated Press.

Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, will take the temporary lead on the investigation into Russia's alleged interference in the USA election.

"It is clear that this process would be a distraction for the House Intelligence Committee's investigation into Russian interference in our election", Mr Ryan said.

Last week, the committee said it wanted to interview at least 20 people in private. Trump seized on the information as evidence backing up his unfounded claim that President Barack Obama wiretapped the phones at his NY skyscraper. I do think that it calls up the need once again for a truly independent commission, something that would supplement whatever we do in Congress, but would be detached from Congress, would be beyond any kind of political interference by the White House.

Republican Mike Conaway will lead the probe while Nunes faces questions over his own links to Trump, which Democrats have criticised as too close for comfort for this role.

Speaker Paul Ryan expressed confidence in Conaway in a statement, as Democrats expressed an interest in a fresh start.