Devin Nunes sparked a controversy last week when he said he had seen documents at the White House that indicated President Donald Trump may have been caught in incidental intelligence collection before the inauguration.

House Intelligence Committee Chair Rep. Devin Nunes.
House Intelligence Committee Chair Rep. Devin Nunes.

The chairman of the House of Representatives' Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, said on Thursday that he was temporarily stepping down as head of the panel's investigation into Russia.

He said accusations filed against him with the Office Of Congressional Ethics that he has close relations with the Trump administration were "entirely false."

In a statement announcing his decision, Nunes said he wanted to speak with the ethics office as soon as possible "to expedite the dismissal of these false claims."

TRT World's Tetiana Anderson reports the latest from Washington DC.

Sharply criticised by Democrats

Nunes, who was on Donald Trump's presidential transition team following the 2016 election, has been sharply criticised by Democrats for his handling of the Russia probe.

He came under fire after he received information at the White House, held a news conference about it, and then went back to the White House to brief Trump, all before sharing it with other members of his committee.

The Russia probe is investigating whether Moscow hacked emails of senior Democrats during the election campaign and released embarrassing information to hurt Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and benefit Trump.

Russia denies the allegations.

The House Ethics Committee said in a statement it had decided to investigate allegations that Nunes may have made unauthorised disclosures of classified information in violation of House rules, the law and other standards of conduct.

Nunes said he had decided to step aside from the Russia investigation in order to fight the allegations.

The top Democrat on the committee, Representative Adam Schiff, said Nunes' decision to step aside from the investigation was made in "the best interests of the committee and I respect that decision."

Source: TRTWorld and agencies