The move comes after Nunes claimed in mid-March that Trump surrogates, and possibly Trump himself, had been subject to incidental surveillance during the final months of the Obama administration. Nunez made the accusations at a series of press conferences in which he said he’d privately briefed Donald Trump on the contents of several dozen intelligence reports provided to him by an "unspecified source".
It turned out later that the "unspecified source" had in fact been the White House who had supplied Rep. Nunes with the apparently classified intel in order to give Donald Trump cover on his lies about being "wiretapped" by President Obama.
FACT CHECK: FBI Director James Comey has stated under oath there is no evidence that President Obama wiretapped Trump Tower.
The chairman’s decision to brief the press and Trump on the documents without first consulting the House Intelligence Committee was what set Nunes' fall from grace into motion.
Nunes all but sealed his fate on March 24, when he told reporters he had decided to “postpone” a public hearing in which former acting Attorney General Sally Yates, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and former CIA Director John Brennan were scheduled to testify about Moscow’s alleged election meddling and possible ties between Trump surrogates and Russian officials. Ranking member of the Select Committee on Intelligence Adam Schiff characterized the postponement as a cancellation intended to “choke off” information from the public.
That was the final straw that forced Nunes to step down from his position on the committee.
After the announcement of his departure from leading the investigation Nunes announced that Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas), with assistance from Reps. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) and Tom Rooney (R-Fla.), would lead the investigation in his stead.
While Nunes described his recusal as temporary it remains unclear how he could possibly return to the role as lead council on the panel.
In his statement, Nunes mentioned that there had been calls from several groups for the Office of Congressional Ethics to investigate a possible violation of ethics rules on his part.
Nunes said the charges were brought by...
“left-wing activists” and were “entirely false and politically motivated”
Yet immediately after Nunes announced his recusal, the House Ethics Committee said it would indeed be investigating allegations that Nunes made...
“unauthorized disclosures of classified information”
The committee explained that the investigation was triggered by internal concerns from panel members, not by the outside groups Nunes mentioned.
In its statement, the ethics committee cited internal rule 18(a) as its justification for launching the investigation into Nunes. That rule states that even in the absence of a filed complaint or referral from the Office of Congressional Ethics...
“the Committee may consider any information in its possession indicating that a Member, officer, or employee may have committed a violation.”
After hearing of the ethics investigation Nunes said he planned to speak with the committee at the earliest possible opportunity in order to expedite the dismissal of what he called "false claims."
While House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said in a statement that he still trusted Nunes but supported Nunes’ decision to step aside. The Trump administration has still not commented on Nunes’ recusal.
The House Intelligence Committee is one of two congressional panels currently probing Moscow’s alleged interference in the 2016 election and its possible collusion with the Trump team. The FBI is also conducting a separate investigation.