Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, is taking the helm of the House-led probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election – an issue he once seemed to minimize.
Conaway was given the job of overseeing the probe after the House Intelligence Committee's chair, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., stepped aside amid an Ethics Committee investigation into whether he divulged classified information and accusations by Democrats he ran interference for the Trump White House, Politico reported.
Nunes has denied both charges.
According to The Dallas Morning News in January, Conaway claimed Russian meddling in the 2016 election is no different than Democrats enlisting Mexican entertainers to campaign for Hillary Clinton in Nevada to get out the vote.
"Harry Reid and the Democrats brought in Mexican soap opera stars, singers, and entertainers who had immense influence in those communities into Las Vegas, to entertain, get out the vote and so forth," Conaway told the newspaper at the time.
"Those are foreign actors, foreign people, influencing the vote in Nevada. You don't hear the Democrats screaming and saying one word about that."
"It worked really well in Nevada, as you see," he added about Clinton's strong election results in Nevada. "Those folks are monster in the Hispanic community. They hold great sway."
"Sure it is, it's foreign influence," he added. "If we're worried about foreign influence, let's have the whole story."
Politico reported, despite his stance then, Democrats say they are cautiously hopeful Conaway can get the committee back on track.
"I think Conaway is a sharp guy," Rep. André Carson, D-Ind., told Politico. "He's a tough guy. . . . I have confidence in him. I've worked well with him."
And Republicans also expressed confidence in Conaway helming the probe.
"I think it’s going to be effective," Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C. "Everything's bigger and better if you're from Texas. Mike's got a great reputation of being honest."
Conaway, who endorsed Donald Trump for president after he had forced his rivals out of a GOP primary, has previously criticized Trump's posture toward Russia – including calling out Trump's comments last year about the NATO alliance being obsolete.
"Trump spouted off before he knew what he was talking about," Conaway told the Odessa American in April 2016.
"I would disagree with Mr. Trump. It's not about terrorism. It's about Putin."
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