The House Ethics Committee announced Thursday that it is launching a probe into whether Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes disclosed classified intelligence without proper authorization while overseeing the investigation of alleged Russian interference in the presidential election.
The Hill reports that a statement was issued by House Ethics Committee Chairwoman Susan Brooks (R-Ind.) and the panel’s ranking Democrat, Rep. Ted Deutch (Fla.), which states that the investigation will focus on whether Nunes violated federal law and the chamber’s rules when he announced during a press conference that intelligence agencies “incidentally collected” information about Trump’s transition team members.
The startling disclosure led some lawmakers to contend that by disclosing the existence of the intercepts, Nunes had inappropriately revealed classified information. However, Nunes defended his statement claiming that it “appears” the intercepts were collected under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Even still, the argument is being made that FISA materials are considered classified until explicitly declassified by the agency that made the original designation, says the report.
When Nunes announced his decision to temporarily step aside from the Russia investigation on Thursday, he specifically mentioned the House Ethics Committee investigation. He also addressed how several “leftwing activist groups” including, MoveOn.Org (a Soros-funded group), Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, and Democracy 21 had filed complaints against him with the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) and urged the OCE to investigate whether he disclosed classified information.
An ethics complaint filed by MoveOn.org reads:
The disclosure of this information by Chairman Nunes was evidently intended to try to lend some credence to President Trump’ claims that former President Obama had Trump Tower wiretapped — claims that have been repeatedly been shown to be absolutely baseless, as confirmed by FBI Director Comey in his testimony before Chairman Nunes’ own committee.
In his quest to assist President Trump politically, however, it appears that Chairman Nunes has committed serious violations of law and House Rules.
Nunes vehemently denies the allegations but also stated he believes it’s “in the best interests of the House Intelligence Committee and the Congress” for him to step aside from the Russia investigation.
“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 in a statement, adding that the allegations against him are “baseless.” Nunes added, “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 Ethics Committee reportedly launched an investigation without waiting for OCE to take up the matter, under regulations that allow it to “consider any information in its possession” that lawmakers may have violated the law or House rules, even if there isn’t necessarily a filed complaint.
The House Ethics Committee also issued a statement on Thursday, referencing complaints filed with the OCE, saying it is “aware of public allegations that Representative Devin Nunes may have made unauthorized disclosures of classified information.”
H/T: The Hill
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