House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes was cleared by the Ethics Committee of disclosing classified information, opening the way for him to resume full control of the panel’s investigation of Russian meddling in the U.S. election.
The ethics panel said in a statement Thursday that an analysis by outside classification experts showed the information disclosed by Nunes, a California Republican, wasn’t classified.
Nunes had been criticized over his handling last spring of material shown to him by White House staff that allegedly indicated Obama administration officials “unmasked” the identities of people close to President Donald Trump who were mentioned in legal surveillance of foreign individuals.
Nunes held a press conference April 6 at the Capitol to publicly talk about the information, before returning to the White House to brief Trump.
Nunes, in a written response Thursday, said the allegations against him were "obviously frivolous" and were filed by "left-wing activist groups." Outside groups had filed an ethics complaint and some lawmakers, including top Intelligence panel Democrat Adam Schiff of California, called on Nunes to recuse himself from the Russia probe.
That led Nunes to announce he would “temporarily” step back from the Russia inquiry while the Ethics Committee conducted its investigation. The Russia probe has been mostly led since then by Republican Representative Mike Conaway of Texas.
Still, in a text message Thursday, Nunes said, "I’m the chairman. I have and always will oversee everything."
Nunes, who remained the Intelligence Committee’s chairman, had never fully detached himself from the Russia investigation. Some of his continued involvement in recent months — including issuing some subpoenas without Democratic input — has exacerbated internal friction on the committee.
"I respect the ethics process, but I remain dismayed that it took an unbelievable eight months for the committee to dismiss this matter," Nunes said in his statement.
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