Republican Rep. Devin Nunes of California, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, announced April 6 that he will temporarily remove himself from the congressional investigation of Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election.
The administration of President Donald Trump has fallen under heavy scrutiny since his Jan. 20 inauguration, as rumors and accusations of intrigue continue to fly from both sides of the aisle. Amid the ongoing HIC probe of alleged dealings between Trump advisers and the Kremlin, the new Commander in Chief generated further controversy March 4, accusing former President Barack Obama of wiretapping his campaign. According to NBC News, Nunes entered the eye of the media storm after claiming unnamed sources had provided him proof that U.S. intelligence had "monitored" Trump's transition team.
Nunes leaves the investigation amid criticism for his decision to reveal those findings with the president and media before sharing them with the House committee.
"Several left-wing activist groups have filed accusations against me with the Office of Congressional Ethics," Nunes defended himself in his statement, according to the New York Post. "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 added: "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 claims."
Republican Rep. and House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin supported Nunes stepping down, saying the issue would be a "distraction."
"Chairman Nunes has offered to step aside as the lead Republican in this probe, and I fully support this decision," Ryan said, according to the New York Post.
"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," Ryan added, according to NBC News. "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."
Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the ranking Democrat on the committee who called on Nunes to recuse himself, also approved.
"I know this was not an easy decision for the chairman, with whom I have worked well for many years," Schiff stated, according to NBC News. "He did so in the best interests of the committee and I respect that decision."
Schiff continued: "The important work of investigating the Russian involvement in our election never subsided, but we have a fresh opportunity to move forward in the unified and nonpartisan way that an investigation of this seriousness demands."