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Devin Nunes says he's temporarily stepping aside from Russia probe

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes today said he's temporarily stepping aside from the Russia probe amid ethics accusations that he may have disclosed classified information. 

Nunes (R-Tulare) said he was stepping down temporarily as head of the House probe into whether Trump associates colluded with Russia during last year’s election.

In a statement, Nunes said he was taking the action because “several  leftwing activist groups have filed accusations against me with the Office of Congressional Ethics.”

“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” step aside from the Russia probe “while the House Ethics Committee looks into this matter,” Nunes said.

Nunes said “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 said he had asked to speak to the ethics committee "at the earliest possible opportunity in order to expedite the dismissal of these false claims.”

Nunes has come under fierce criticism from Democrats for making public information provided him to him last month by White House aides about classified intelligence reports that referred to Trump associates, and that Nunes did not provide to members of his committee.

Nunes said that  Rep. Mike Conaway, (R-Texas), with assistance from Representatives Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) and Tom Rooney, (R-Fla.) would temporarily take charge of the GOP-led committee's Russia investigation

He said he would remain as chairman of the committee.

The leaders of the House Ethics Committee said it is  investigating whether Nunes improperly disclosed classified information, apparently when he held a press conference last month to claim that Trump associates names had been revealed in intelligence reports.

“The Committee is aware of public allegations that Representative Devin Nunes may have made unauthorized disclosures of classified information, in violation of House Rules, law, regulations, or other standards of conduct," Rep. Susan Brooks, (R-Ind.), the committee chairwoman, and Rep. Theodore Deutch, (D-Fla.), the top Democrat on the panel. said in a statement.

The ethics committee "is investigating and gathering more information regarding these allegations,” they said.

Democrats applauded Nunes' decision to step aside. 

“Good for him,” said Sen. Kamala Harris, (D-Calif.), a member of the Senate intelligence committee, which is conducting a separate probe of Russian meddling in the election.

“He stopped being objective,” she added, referring to Nunes’ failure to share the intelligence he received from the White House with the House committee before he made it public.

Speaker Paul Ryan also appeared to support Nunes' decision to step aside.

In a statement, Ryan said Nunes "is eager to demonstrate to the Ethics Committee that he has followed all proper guidelines and laws. In the meantime, it is clear that this process would be a distraction for the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation into Russian interference in our election.”

7:02 a.m.: This post has been updated with information on the ethics accusations that Nunes says have been filed against him.

This post originally published at 6:51 a.m.

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