Nunes: ‘I Can Do Whatever I Want, I’m The Chairman’ Of House Intel Panel

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., left, speaks to reporters in the Capitol in Washington, Friday, March 24, 2017.  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, on Monday said that he can do whatever he pleases as chair of the panel, even though he has stepped aside from the Russia probe for the time being.

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

He told CNN that he is “fully read-in” on the committee’s Russia probe.

“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,” he said.

Though he’s stayed informed on the investigation, Nunes said that he has not attended hearings and briefings related to the probe. But he said that he could decide to take over the reins in the investigation at any time.

“Every decision I make is my own,” he told CNN. “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.”

He also stressed that he never said he was recusing himself from the committee’s probe. Nunes announced his decision to temporarily step aside from the Russia investigation in April, after the House Ethics Committee said it was looking into complaints against him. Several groups charged that Nunes disclosed classified information when he publicized his claims that the Obama administration requested the unmasking of Trump team members whose names were incidentally collected in intelligence reports.

“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 told CNN. “That is not withdrawing, that is not recusing myself from an investigation.”