On Thursday, House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes released a statement announcing he'd be "temporarily" stepping aside from his committee's ongoing investigation into Russia's alleged involvement in the 2016 presidential election, Politico reports.
The California Republican, and former member of Trump's transition team, has been suspected of showing favoritism toward the president while tasked with leading a nonpartisan investigation into his administration. So much so that last week his Democrat counterpart on the committee, Adam Schiff, called for his recusal. On Thursday, Nunes obliged.
"I believe it is in the best interests of the House Intelligence Committee and the Congress for me to have Representative Mike Conaway, with assistance from Representatives Trey Gowdy and Tom Rooney, temporarily take charge of the Committee's Russia investigation while the House Ethics Committee looks into this matter," Nunes said in a statement. "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."
The controversy revolves partly around how the congressman handled Trump's recent wiretapping claims. Nunes originally disputed the idea that Obama had tapped Trump's phones at Trump Tower during the election but then held a press conference saying he had information showing Trump and his associates actually had been swept up in an "incidental" collection of information by the US government around that time. It was later learned that Nunes got that information from two White House officials and then discussed the intelligence reports with the president without briefing his committee first.
In his statement, Nunes blamed "left-wing activists groups" for filing complaints to the Office of Congressional Ethics about his handling of the investigation so far, which he claims are "entirely false and politically motivated." He'll remain chairman of the committee and continue to work with his colleagues to keep an eye on America's intelligence network.
Schiff praised the move Thursday, telling reporters that the Russia investigation had never stalled and the committee will be looking into those reports Nunes had discussed with the president.
"I think it is in the best interest of the investigation. I think it will allow us to have a fresh start moving forward," Schiff told reporters Thursday. "This investigation is of such critical importance that we need to get fully back on track."