The House Ethics Committee announced Thursday that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes had not disclosed classified information or violated House rules when he publicly discussed foreign surveillance reports earlier this year, formally ending its investigation of him.
The Ethics Committee said Thursday that "classification experts in the intelligence community" determined that when Nunes (R-Calif.) suggested to the press in March that Trump transition-team members' identities may have been improperly revealed in foreign surveillance reports, he was not disclosing classified information.
“The committee will take no further action and considers this matter closed,” the ethics panel’s chairwoman, Susan Brooks (R-Ind.), and ranking Democrat, Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), wrote in a statement announcing the panel’s decision. They noted that the committee deferred entirely to intelligence community experts in making its determination about the classification of the materials and that members did not weigh in on that question.
Nunes welcomed the news but criticized the committee in a statement for taking eight months to clear him of allegations that he argued “were obviously frivolous and were rooted in politically motivated complaints filed against me by left-wing activist groups.”
He would not say Thursday whether the Ethics Committee’s decision would prompt him to resume his full duties as chairman in the Intelligence Committee’s Russia investigation.
When the Ethics Committee launched its Nunes inquiry in April, Nunes stepped back from his panel's probe of Russian meddling in the election, handing the day-to-day operations over to Rep. K. Michael Conaway (R-Tex.), with the understanding he would be assisted by Reps. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) and Thomas J. Rooney (R-Fla.). Democrats have criticized Nunes for continuing to act as chairman when it comes to matters such as approving subpoenas for the investigation, but Nunes has repeatedly insisted he never intended to fully recuse himself from the Russia probe.
Spokesmen for Conaway and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) did not respond to requests to clarify whether Nunes’s role vis-a-vis the Russia probe would change now that he has been cleared by the Ethics Committee.
Nunes, however, is not accepting the favorable verdict quietly.
In his statement, he called on the committee “to publicly release all its transcripts related to my case,” while noting that he was “concerned by public statements made by four of the Ethics Committee’s five Democrats that appeared to prejudge this matter before they began investigating the complaint.” He did not name the members he referenced.
He also challenged the committee’s decision to take up the allegations against him in the first place, arguing that determining whether material was classified or not was normally the purview of committee staffers, making the Ethics Committee’s decision to weigh in on the matter “unprecedented.”
Paul Kane contributed to this report.