Devin Nunes, the House Intelligence Committee Chairman who informed the White House last month about the unmasking of Trump transition team members during the final months of the Obama administration, announced Thursday morning that he is stepping aside from heading up the committee's probe into the allegations that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election.

Nunes stated that he made up his mind to step aside from his leadership role amid pressure from "left-wing activist groups". According to Nunes, these groups filed false accusations against him with the Office of Congressional Ethics based on his decision to report his surveillance findings directly to the Trump administration instead of the House Intelligence Committee.

Gowdy, Conaway and Rooney to lead the investigation

The Russian election tampering investigation will be handed over to Republican committee members Mike Conaway, Tom Rooney and Trey Gowdy. Gowdy was the Republican who spearheaded the investigation into the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.

Nunes, who called the Office of Congressional Ethics charges "baseless," and said that he plans on meeting with the Ethics Committee as soon as possible in order to have the charges dismissed.

House Speaker Paul Ryan addressed Nunes' decision on Thursday, stating that he believes Nunes was not in violation of any ethics guidelines. However, Ryan added that he fully supported the decision to step aside and admitted that the charges against Nunes would have been a distraction for the House Intelligence Committee.

Susan Rice says she is not the leaker

In March, Nunes announced that he uncovered evidence that Trump transition team members had their identities "unmasked" during government surveillance of foreign targets. Earlier this week, numerous news outlets reported that Susan Rice, the National Security Adviser under President Obama, had requested the unmasking.

While the act of unmasking the identities of U.S. citizens is not illegal, leaking the information to the press is a felony under federal law. It remains unclear who is responsible for leaking the identities of unmasked Trump transition team members to the media, but Susan Rice has recently gone on record denying rumors that she was the responsible party.

"I leaked nothing to nobody," Rice told Andrea Mitchell of MSNBC on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Rep. Steve King told Fox News that the intelligence reports containing the names of unmasked Trump associates also contained a wealth of detailed, personal information.

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