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House intelligence panel chair steps aside from Russia probe

Written by Deb Riechmann and Eileen Sullivan/The Associated Press | Apr 6, 2017 10:37 AM
devin_nunes.jpg

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., waves as he arrives for a closed-door GOP strategy session on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 4, 2017. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

(Washington) -- The chairman of the House intelligence committee announced Thursday he is temporarily stepping aside from the panel's probe into Russian meddling in last year's presidential election.

The decision by Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., comes amid partisan turmoil on the committee. Democrats have alleged that Nunes, who was on President Donald Trump's transition team, is too close to the White House and cannot lead an impartial inquiry.

"Several leftwing activist groups have filed accusations against me with the Office of Congressional Ethics," Nunes said in a statement. "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 U.S. citizens and other abuses of power."

Nunes did not disclose details of the allegations.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said he supported Nunes' decision and said the congressman is 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," Ryan said.

He said he believes it is in the best interests of the committee and Congress to have GOP Reps. Mike Conaway of Texas, with help from Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina and Rep. Tom Rooney of Florida, temporarily take charge of the investigation while the House Ethics Committee looks into the issue.

"I will continue to fulfill all my other responsibilities as committee chairman, and I am requesting to speak to the Ethics Committee at the earliest possible opportunity in order to expedite the dismissal of these false claims," Nunes said.

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

*An earlier version is below*

(Washington) -- The chairman of the House intelligence committee says he will temporarily step aside from the panel's probe into Russian meddling in the election.

In a statement on Thursday, Republican congressman Devin Nunes of California says that several left-wing activist groups have filed accusations against him with the office of congressional ethics.

Nunes says the charges are false and politically motivated.

But he says it's in the best interest of the committee to have GOP congressman Mike Conaway of Texas temporarily take charge of the committee's investigation.

He says he will continue fulfilling other duties with the committee and wants to talk to the ethics committee as soon as possible to defend himself.

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