Devin Nunes steps down from US House probe on Russia

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Dr Frook
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Devin Nunes steps down from US House probe on Russia

Postby Dr Frook » 06 Apr 2017, 20:44

finally... this needed to happen a while back...

Chairman of the House of Representatives' Intelligence Committee Devin Nunes says he is temporarily stepping down as head of the panel's investigation into Russia, citing what he says are "entirely false" accusations filed against him with the Office of Congressional Ethics.

Key points:
•Devin Nunes says claims were lodged by left-wing activists
•Paul Ryan supports Mr Nunes' decision
•Republican Mike Conaway to temporarily take charge of Russia probe

In a statement announcing his decision, Mr Nunes said he wanted to speak with the ethics office as soon as possible "to expedite the dismissal of these false claims".

The surprise disclosure that Mr Nunes was under investigation added new uncertainty to the wider Russia probe his committee is carrying out.

Democrats have alleged that Mr Nunes, who was on President Donald Trump's transition team, was too close to the White House and could not lead an impartial inquiry.

The investigation is one of several in Congress examining whether Russia tried to influence the election in Mr Trump's favour, mostly by hacking Democratic operatives' emails and releasing embarrassing information. Russia denies the allegations.

"Several left-wing activist groups have filed accusations against me with the Office of Congressional Ethics," Mr Nunes said in the statement.

"The charges are ... being levelled just as the American people are beginning to learn the truth about the improper unmasking of the identities of US citizens and other abuses of power."

The House Ethics Committee issued a rare statement saying it would investigate allegations Mr Nunes may have made unauthorised disclosures of classified information "in violation of House Rules, law, regulations, or other standards of conduct".

Mr Nunes and his spokesman have insisted no classified information was revealed, but Democrats and former intelligence lawyers said it was clear he had done so.

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

Mr Trump sparked a controversy in early March when he tweeted, without giving evidence, that Mr Obama had wiretapped him while the New York businessman competed with Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential race.

Two and a half weeks later, Mr Nunes held a news conference saying an unidentified source had shown him intelligence reports containing "unmasked" names of Trump associates who were incidentally caught up in routine foreign surveillance.

Immediately after Mr Nunes' news conference, critics argued that he had disclosed classified information in what many saw as an effort to provide cover to Mr Trump's wiretapping claim and to distract from the wider Russia investigation.

Mr Nunes said the surveillance of Trump associates appeared legal but expressed concern that names of US citizens may have been improperly revealed in the reports and widely disseminated among government officials.

Ryan backs Nunes' decision

House Speaker Paul Ryan said he supported Mr Nunes' decision and said the congressman was eager to talk to the ethics panel.

"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.

He said he believed it was in the best interests of the committee and Congress to have Republican Mike Conaway of Texas temporarily take charge of the investigation while the House Ethics Committee looked into the issue.

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Michael Flynn's resignation from national security post has the potential to threaten careers all the way to the top.

"I will continue to fulfil all my other responsibilities as committee chairman," Mr Nunes said.

He said he was confident that Mr Conaway would oversee a professional investigation into Russia's actions and follow the facts wherever they lead.

The top Democrat on the panel, Adam Schiff, said Mr Nunes' decision to step aside from the probe was made in "the best interests of the committee, and I respect that decision".

The ethics probe comes just weeks after Mr Nunes and other Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee used a public hearing with FBI Director James Comey to decry leaks of classified intelligence to the media that have fuelled concern about Mr Trump's ties to Russia and led to the ouster of former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

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