Ethics panel clears Intel chairman of disclosing classified info

Ethics panel clears Intel chairman of disclosing classified info
© Greg Nash

The House Ethics Committee on Thursday cleared Rep. Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesSunday shows preview: White House, congressional Democrats unable to breach stalemate over coronavirus relief The Hill's Campaign Report: US officials say Russia, China are looking to sow discord in election The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the Air Line Pilots Association - Negotiators 'far apart' as talks yield little ahead of deadline MORE (R-Calif.), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, of allegations that he disclosed classified information to the public.

In a statement, the committee said it is closing the investigation into Nunes after consulting with experts on classification rules.

"Based solely on the conclusion of these classification experts that the information that Representative Nunes disclosed was not classified, the Committee will take no further action and considers this matter closed," it said.

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Nunes announced during a press conference earlier this year that intelligence agencies had incidentally collected information about associates of President TrumpDonald John TrumpUSPS warns Pennsylvania mail-in ballots may not be delivered in time to be counted Michael Cohen book accuses Trump of corruption, fraud Trump requests mail-in ballot for Florida congressional primary MORE.

The information, Nunes said, appeared to have been gathered under a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant, which would mean that materials would be classified until explicitly declassified by the agency that made the designation.

Democrats and progressive groups accused Nunes at the time of leaking classified information.

"Rep. Nunes's statements would appear to be revealing classified information and that obviously would be a very serious concern," Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenElection security advocates see strong ally in Harris OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Watchdog report raises new questions for top Interior lawyer | Senate Democrats ask Trump to withdraw controversial public lands nominee | Border wall water use threatens endangered species, environmentalists say Watchdog report raises new questions for top Interior lawyer MORE (D-Ore.) told reporters in April.

MoveOn.org and other progressive groups filed complaints with the Office of Congressional Ethics over the disclosure, accusing Nunes of "serious violations of law and House rules."

“The disclosure of this information by Chairman Nunes was evidently intended to try to lend some credence to President Trump’s claims that former President Obama had Trump Tower wiretapped — claims that have been repeatedly been shown to be absolutely baseless, as confirmed by FBI Director Comey in his testimony before Chairman Nunes’ own committee,” MoveOn.org’s ethics complaint read.

The Ethics Committee probe forced Nunes to step back from the Intelligence Committee's investigation into Russian election interference. Rep. Mike ConawayKenneth (Mike) Michael ConawayLive coverage: Democrats, Republicans seek to win PR battle in final House impeachment hearing Laughter erupts at hearing after Democrat fires back: Trump 'has 5 Pinocchios on a daily basis' Live coverage: Schiff closes with speech highlighting claims of Trump's corruption MORE (R-Texas) took over Nunes's duties in the investigation.

Nunes called the accusations against him "politically motivated" when the committee said it would open an investigation earlier this year.

The California Republican hailed news of the probe ending Thursday, while blasting the panel for not issuing a decision sooner.

"I’d like to thank the Ethics Committee for completely clearing me today of the cloud that was created by this investigation, and for determining that I committed no violation of anything—no violation of House Rules, law, regulations, or any other standards of conduct," Nunes said in a statement.

"While I appreciate the Ethics Committee’s work, I need to reiterate that the allegations against me were obviously frivolous and were rooted in politically motivated complaints filed against me by left-wing activist groups. I respect the ethics process, but I remain dismayed that it took an unbelievable eight months for the Committee to dismiss this matter."

Nunes also blasted committee Democrats for statements "appearing to prejudge" the case before it came before them and called on the Ethics panel to release "all its transcripts related to my case."

Updated: 7:56 p.m.