WASHINGTON, D.C. — House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes announced on Thursday that he was stepping down from his role leading the committee’s investigation into what, if any, role the Russian government played in manipulating the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.
In a statement released Thursday morning, Nunes cited the attempts by “several left wing activist groups” to lodge “entirely false and politically motivated” accusations against him as his reason for stepping down. In a statement, the House Committee on Ethics confirmed that it was investigating allegations that Nunes “may have made unauthorized disclosures of classified information, in violation of House Rules, law, regulations, or other standards of conduct.”
In his statement, Nunes said that he would “continue to fulfill all my other responsibilities as Committee Chairman” and had requested to speak with the Ethics Committee “in order to expedite the dismissal of these false claims” and hinted that the accusations against him were timed intentionally to distract from the scandal surrounding reports about the names of Trump associates being “unmasked” by former Obama administration National Security Adviser Susan Rice.
“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,” said Nunes.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told Fox News that neither House Speaker Paul Ryan nor Nunes gave the White House any advance knowledge of Nunes’ decision to step down, but added that Nunes’ absence would not change the “substance” of the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation.
In March, Nunes held a press conference in which he disclosed knowledge of classified reports that appeared to show the unmasking of Trump associates. Democrats were quick to pounce Nunes due to his admission that he briefed president Trump on the matter before meeting with the Intelligence Committee.
In a statement, Speaker Ryan said supported Nunes’ decision to step down amid the controversy.
“Devin Nunes has earned my trust over many years for his integrity and dedication to the critical work that the intelligence community does to keep America safe,” said Ryan. “He continues to have that trust, and I know he is eager to demonstrate to the Ethics Committee that he has followed all proper guidelines and laws.”
Rep. Mike Conaway, (R)-Texas, Rep. Trey Gowdy, (R)-S.C., and Rep. Tom Rooney, (R)-Fla. are now slotted to take over Nunes’ role in the investigation.