U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said he will not oversee the committee’s investigation of Russia’s role in the 2016 presidential election, giving a congressman from the Sunshine State more responsibility in leading it.
Nunes will let U.S. Reps. Michael Conway, R-Tex., Trey Gowdy, R-SC, and Tom Rooney, R-Fla., oversee the probe.
“Several leftwing activist groups have filed accusations against me with the Office of Congressional Ethics,” Nunes said on Wednesday. “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.”
Nunes has drawn heavy fire for his handling of the probe, including meeting with White House staff and coordinating with them.
Rooney is far less friendly to the Trump administration. During the presidential campaign, Rooney criticized Donald Trump and withdrew his support for him back in October.
After a recording of Trump engaging in a lewd conversation emerged, Rooney said he would not vote for the Republican presidential hopeful. Rooney, also said he would not back Hillary Clinton for the presidency either.
“As the father of three young sons, I don’t want my boys growing up in a world where the president of the United States is allowed to speak or treat women the way Donald Trump has,” Rooney said back in October. “My greatest responsibility in life is to try and be a good husband and father. If I support him for president, I will be telling my boys that I think it’s okay to treat women like objects – and I’ll have failed as a dad. Therefore, I can no longer support Donald Trump for president and will not be voting for him or Hillary Clinton.”
Rooney has garnered speculation as a candidate for higher office. He opened the door at the start of 2015 to run for the U.S. Senate if Marco Rubio, R-Fla., decided not to run for a second term but ultimately pulled back. With his service in the Army, including teaching law at West Point, and his family connections to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Rooney looks like an attractive candidate for down the road. Rooney’s name has been thrown around for the Senate in 2018 as a possible challenger to U.S .Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.