US Representative from California Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, speaks to the press about the investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on March 24, 2017.
Rep. Nunes behind 'unmasking' subpoenas
02:09 - Source: CNN

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House intelligence committee chairman Devin Nunes stepped aside in April

Nunes explained that he had decided not to attend briefings of the Russia investigation

CNN  — 

House intelligence committee Chairman Devin Nunes said Monday that he is still being “fully read-in” on the House Russia investigation and can retake control of the probe at any time, if he wanted to.

But for now, he’s staying away, he told CNN.

“When I temporarily stepped aside from leading the investigation, that’s exactly what it means: It doesn’t mean I wasn’t going to be involved, it doesn’t mean I wasn’t going to be fully read in,” Nunes said in an interview.

Nunes blasted news outlets for reporting that he had recused himself from the probe, when he said he had only stepped aside. But Monday marked the first time he explained the difference between the two terms, and what it means for the House Russia investigation.

“I can do whatever I want, I’m the chairman of the committee,” Nunes said. “I voluntarily, temporarily stepped aside from leading the investigation.”

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Nunes explained that he had personally decided not to attend hearings and briefings of the Russia investigation since he stepped aside three months ago. But he also explained that he has the final say in the limits of his decision.

“Every decision I make is my own,” he said. “I can go back right after this conversation and take the investigation over. Although I think everybody’s learning there’s not really much there because there’s no collusion – which is what I had said several months ago, I hadn’t seen any evidence.”

Nunes stepped aside from the House Russia investigation on April 6, after it was announced he was under investigation by the House ethics committee for possibly revealing classified information.

But Nunes never explained the parameters of his decision, spurring some confusion and anger as he maintained control over the House Russia probes subpoenas and launched his own investigation into unmasking that is competing with the Russia probe for House resources.

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“I temporarily stepped aside, just to make sure there was no issue at all, just to give everybody assurance there was no ethical issues at all,” he said. “That is not withdrawing, that is not recusing myself from an investigation.”

Asked if he felt like he was railroaded out of the investigation, Nunes said he had no regrets.

“I don’t complain about anything, because this is a tough business,” he said. “But I know that I’ve been telling the truth the entire time, you can’t go back and find anything that I’ve misled you on.”