By Emmarie Huetteman and Mark Mazzetti
WASHINGTON – Rep. Devin Nunes, the embattled California Republican who is chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, announced Thursday he would step aside from leading his committee’s investigation into Russia’s efforts to disrupt last year’s presidential election.
His announcement was made on the same morning that the House Committee on Ethics said Nunes was under investigation because of public reports that “may have made unauthorized disclosures of classified information.”
The congressman has been under growing criticism for his handling of the Russian inquiry. Many on Capitol Hill have said he is too eager to do the White House’s bidding and cannot be an impartial investigator into questions about any role President Trump’s associates may have had in last year’s Russian campaign to disrupt the election.
Nunes said that his decision came after “left-wing activist groups” filed accusations against him with the Office of Congressional Ethics. He called the charges “entirely false and politically motivated,” but said it was in the committee’s best interests for him to temporarily step aside from the investigation.
Nunes came under fire last month after he announced that he believed Trump or members of his transition team may have been “incidentally” caught up in foreign surveillance by U.S. spy agencies. He cited “dozens” of intelligence reports he described as classified, which The New York Times later revealed had been provided to him by White House officials.
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