Following pressure from Democrats and Republicans, House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes will step aside from the investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election.
The Californian Republican congressman said he is stepping down due to “entirely false” accusations filed against him with the Office of Congressional Ethics.
The decision will also affect the committee’s probe into alleged possible interactions between Moscow and Trump campaign staffers.
The probe will now be conducted by congressional members Michael Conaway (R, Texas), Trey Gowdy (R, South Carolina), and Tom Rooney (R, Florida). Rep. Gowdy is chairman of a House Select Committee which carried out the investigation into the 2012 Benghazi attack.
Declaring the charges against him “false claims,” Nunes said he intends to speak with the Ethics Office as soon as possible.
House Speaker Paul Ryan said in a statement that “Nunes still has his trust” and that he supports the chair’s decision to step aside from the probe. He added that he is confident the temporary head, Rep. Conaway, will conduct a “professional investigation into Russia and follow the facts.”
Ryan called the ethics probe of Nunes a “distraction” to the committee’s investigation of Russian interference, adding that Nunes stepped away because he wants to clear himself without holding up the Intelligence Committee.
Top House Democrats called for Nunes to recuse himself from the panel’s investigation into Russia, following the revelations that he had met on White House grounds with a source who showed him secret US intelligence reports.
Nunes told reporters in March after the meeting with the source that President Trump or his closest associates may have been “incidentally” swept up in foreign surveillance by American spy agencies.
The revelation that Nunes had viewed intelligence materials on White House grounds the day before bolstering the administration’s case – without briefing Democrats on the committee first – fueled damaging speculation that he was acting on instructions of the president.
The House Intelligence Committee is running one of the three investigations into alleged Russian interference in the election, and possible ties between Trump associates and Russia. The Senate Intelligence Committee is running its own inquiry, while the FBI has carried out a broad counterintelligence investigation since July 2016.
Obama aide and Former NSA Adviser Susan Rice helped Obama illegally unmask Trump team. Fox News Correspondent Adam Housley, revealed on Friday that Intel Chair Devin Nunes knew who was responsible for unmasking the identities of the Trump team.
On Sunday, activist Mike Cernovich finally revealed that the identity of the unmasker was none other than Susan Rice. After carefully examining document log requests, the White House Counsel’s office idenfitied Rice as the person responsible for the leaks. The reports Rice asked to see are kept under extremely controlled conditions. After learning about Rice’s illegal actions, McMaster dispatched his aide Derek Harvey to brief Charman Nunes.
Unmasking is the process of identifying individuals, whose communications were caught in the dragnet of intelligence gathering. While conducting investigations into terrorism and other related crimes, intelligence analysts incidentally capture conversations about parties not subject to the search warrant. The identities of individuals who are not under investigation are kept confidential, for legal and moral reasons.
Under President Obama the unmasking rules were changed. As his presidency drew to a close, Barack Obama’s top aides routinely reviewed intelligence reports gleaned from the National Security Agency’s incidental intercepts of Americans abroad, taking advantage of rules their boss relaxed starting in 2011 to help the government better fight terrorism, espionage by foreign enemies and hacking threats. Three people close to President Obama, including his “fall guy” for Benghazi (Susan Rice), had authorization to unmask.
Among those cleared to request and consume unmasked NSA-based intelligence reports, about U.S. citizens were Obama’s national security adviser Susan Rice, his CIA Director John Brennan and then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch. Not even mainstream outlets denied that some Trump officials had been spied on, with the NY Times reporting: A pair of White House officials helped provide Representative Devin Nunes of California, a Republican and the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, with the intelligence reports that showed that President Trump and his associates were incidentally swept up in foreign surveillance, by American spy agencies. According to WaPo, there were three sources for the reports, with Michael Ellis ultimately being blamed by WaPo and AP.
What’s striking about the Times story is the spin it took. Trump had previously claimed he had been “wire tapped”, leading to media screams that he prove it. The Times’ own reporting proves that President Trump and his associates were spied on. The Times, rather than admit Trump had been vindicated, instead focused its attention on the question of who leaked the reports to Nunes: Since disclosing the existence of the intelligence reports, Mr. Nunes has refused to identify his sources, saying he needed to protect them so others would feel safe going to the committee with sensitive information. In his public comments, he has described his sources as whistle-blowers trying to expose wrongdoing at great risk to themselves.
Since when did journalists attempt to unmask sources? The Times, WaPo, and other outlets rely on anonymous sources in nearly every article about national security. It’s clear they have an agenda that agenda is not telling the truth. This reporter has been informed that Maggie Haberman has had this story about Susan Rice for at least 48 hours, and has chosen to sit on it in an effort to protect the reputation of former President Barack Obama.