Donald Trump President's ally in Congress steps aside as Russian Federation probe leader

Frederick Owens
April 21, 2017

This comes after the announcement on Thursday morning that the embattled Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., will be stepping away from the Russian Federation probe.

The intelligence committees in both the House and Senate, as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, have been investigating Russia's interference in the 2016 election and possible ties with the Trump campaign. It's one of several in Congress examining whether Russian Federation tried to influence the election in Trump's favor, which Moscow denies.

Nunes's stepping aside came after weeks of public tensions between himself and Adam Schiff, the Democratic vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee.

After Nunes shared what he learned with the president, Trump said he felt partly vindicated for his wire-tapping claims, even though the FBI, Justice Department and former Obama administration officials said they were not true.

"Despite the baselessness of the charges, I believe it is in the best interests of the House Intelligence Committee and the Congress for me to have Rep. Mike Conaway, with assistance from Reps".

By Thursday, however, the House Ethics Committee had made it known it was looking into possible misconduct on Nunes' part, and the congressman had changed his tune.

The House Committee on Ethics simultaneously announced that it is investigating allegations that Nunes "may have made unauthorized disclosures of classified information, in violation of House Rules, law, regulation or other standards of conduct".

"We need to move on".

That he did all of this without telling the ranking Democrat on the committee or any committee members calls into question his judgment. "This is an internal matter for the House", he said.

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 Russian Federation investigation. President Donald Trump said Nunes is "a very honorable guy".

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"He's just making sure that as he works through this other (ethics) process and makes sure that people understand he didn't do anything wrong. And I don't have any reason to think that they wouldn't", Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol.

Schiff also said he looked forward to joining with Conaway in "putting our investigation fully back on track".

The Ethics Office must now determine whether or not Nunes' disclosure in fact revealed any classified information.

A host of politicians - both Democrats and Republicans - called for him to step down after a series of actions that began with a press conference on March 22. At a news conference last month, Nunes said that communications involving associates of President Donald Trump had been swept up by US spy agencies and, he suggested, mishandled by the Obama administration.

Nunes will stay at the helm of the House Intelligence Committee, but Reps.

He says Rep. Mike Conaway is more than capable of leading the House investigation.

This is an apparent reference to Nunes secretly visiting the White House to review evidence that showed incidental collection of intelligence on aides related to Trump's presidential campaign.

USA foreign intelligence activities are classified, but the president can authorize the release of information about them. Democrats want to tie this as close as they can between the Trump team and the Russian meddling from previous year.

Representative Devin Nunes has stepped aside as leader of the House investigation into possible Russian meddling in the USA election amid accusations he was doing the White House's bidding.

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