UPDATED with Nunes’ statement: House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes this morning said he will temporarily recuse himself from the group’s probe into ties between Russia and President Donald Trump’s campaign. On his way out, Nunes blamed “several left-wing activist groups” he said “have filed accusations against me with the Office of Congressional Ethics.”
The move comes amid growing Dem calls for Nunes (R-CA) to step down, which grew a lot louder after a newspaper report naming the White House staffers who had facilitated his dramatic dark-of-night dash to the White House, to view secret documents. Nunes then held a news conference to say he’d discovered docs indicating Trump associates had been swept up in intelligence gathering during President Barack Obama’s administration, then headed straight to the White House to inform Trump of the details of the surveillance info. Very Scandal – or maybe Homeland.
Anyway, after Nunes announcement, the House Ethics Committee stepped in to elaborate on his “left-wing activist” conspiracy theory, saying it has received a series of complaints alleging “Nunes may have made unauthorized disclosures of classified information” during all that secret-White-House-visit rannygazoo. The committee confirmed it is now investigating the guy who was heading the investigation. That ethics committee has subpoena power.
House Speaker Paul Ryan then stepped to the microphone, naming Rep. Mike Conoway (R-Texas) to take over as committee head during its investigation of ties between Russia and the Trump campaign. Ryan insisted Nunes “has earned my trust over many years” and continues to have it. Ryan declined, however to answer a question as to whether he’d asked Nunes to step down.
The announcement surprised journalists who had been covering Nunes closely. It also surprised his committee members because he’d mentioned nary a word while running their morning meeting. Committee member Jackie Speier this morning told CNN philosophically that behavior is par for the course.
House Intel Committee ranking Dem, Adam Schiff, meanwhile, celebrated this morning with a quickly called news conference in which he expressed his “appreciation” for Nunes getting out of the top seat, saying it’s in the “best interest of the investigation,” and that he looked forward to getting back on track with Conoway. Schiff had early on called for Nunes to decide whether he’s head of the intel committee or a Trump adviser, as he had been during Trump’s transition from POTUS-elect to POTUS.
Not surprisingly, Nunes, in this morning’s I’m a Victim Of Left-Wingers statement, insisted “the charges are entirely false and politically motivated, and are being leveled just as the American people are beginning to learn the truth about the improper unmasking of the identities of the U.S. citizens and other abuses of power.”
But, he said, “despite the baselessness of the charges, I believe it is in the best interest of the House Intelligence Committee and the Congress for me to haves 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.”
In his statement, Nunes said he has asked to speak to the House Ethics Committee at the earliest possible opportunity “in order to expedite the dismissal of these false claims.”
Busy morning in Washington.