House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes stepped aside this morning from the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. 

The California Republican cited ethics charges filed by "several left-wing activist groups" as the reason for his decision.

Several leftwing activist groups have filed accusations against me with the Office of Congressional Ethics. 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. 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 have Representative Mike Conaway, with assistance from Representatives Trey Gowdy and Tom Rooney, temporarily take charge of the Committee’s Russia investigation while the House Ethics Committee looks into this matter. 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 committee's investigation will now be turned over to Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX), with assistance from Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) and Rep. Tom Rooney (R-FL).

Judge Andrew Napolitano reacted this morning to the big news, which comes a few weeks after Nunes angered Democrats on the committee by communicating with the White House about classified reports showing the "unmasking" of people tied to the Trump campaign in incidental surveillance.

Nunes was accused of briefing the White House on the findings without telling fellow committee members.

Judge Napolitano noted that "outside advocacy groups" filed the ethics complaint against Nunes and questioned whether the FBI is investigating the more important issue of Susan Rice requesting the unmasking of names in the intelligence reports. 

He and Shannon Bream added that anyone can file a claim with the Office of Congressional Ethics.

"If an outside advocacy group on either side of the aisle ... could file a complaint against any member of Congress it wants and disable that member from doing his or her job, that's not really a healthy way for the government to operate," said Napolitano.

He said he believes Nunes is a "man of honor" and wants to resolve any "appearance of impropriety" before returning to chair the committee.

Napolitano said a "longstanding rivalry" exists between House and Senate intelligence committee members and their investigators.

"Remember two years ago when the CIA was spying on the staff of the Senate Intelligence Committee and they in turn were spying on the CIA and Senator [Dianne] Feinstein, to her credit, revealed all of this on the floor of the Senate?"

Watch his comments above.

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