Rep. Devin Nunes, the head of the House Intelligence Committee, will “temporarily” remove himself from the panel’s investigation into whether Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election.
Nunes, a Republican from California, came under fire for meeting on the White House grounds with sources who provided information that showed Trump associates had been swept up in “incidental” surveillance.
“Several leftwing activist groups have filed accusations against me with the Office of Congressional Ethics,” Nunes said in a statement. “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.”
Susan Rice, former President Obama’s national security adviser, unmasked members of Team Trump who were caught up in surveillance of foreign officials by U.S. intelligence agencies after the election.
Rice admitted to the unmasking of Trump associates but insisted it was not politically motivated and denied she leaked any of the names to the media.
Read: Susan Rice says she didn’t use intelligence on Trump transition for political purposes
House Speaker Paul Ryan, who last week defended Nunes when Democrats called for him to recuse himself from the panel’s investigation, on Thursday praised the decision, saying it would be a “distraction.”
Saying Nunes still continues to have his trust, Ryan said: “Chairman Nunes has offered to step aside as the lead Republican in this probe, and I fully support this decision.”
Nunes said “despite the baselessness of the charges” he believes it’s in the panel’s best interest to allow Reps. Mike Conaway a Republican from Texas, Trey Gowdy a Republican from South Carolina and Tom Rooney a Republican from Florida to take over the investigation while the House Ethics Committee carries out its probe.
“I will continue to fulfill all my other responsibilities as Committee Chairman,” Nunes said in the statement. “And I am requesting to speak to the Ethics Committee at the earliest possible opportunity in order to expedite the dismissal of these claims.”
This story originally appeared on nypost.com.