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Fri, May 24

Congressman takes leave from House committee amid federal probe

PHOENIX - U.S. Rep. Rick Renzi, R-Ariz., is temporarily stepping down from the House Intelligence Committee amid an ongoing federal investigation.

In October, Justice Department officials confirmed that Renzi was the subject of an inquiry into a 2005 land swap that would benefit a friend and business associate.

Renzi has denied any wrongdoing.

In a statement issued late Thursday from Washington, Renzi said "the FBI came to my family's business to obtain documents related to their investigation.

"I view these actions as the first step in bringing out the truth. Until this matter is resolved, I will take a leave of absence from the House Intelligence Committee. I intend to fully cooperate with this investigation."

Renzi, elected to his third term last November, did not elaborate on the federal probe.

The Arizona Republic reported that FBI agents raided an insurance agency owned by Renzi's wife in Sonoita, a town near Sierra Vista.

Calls to the FBI and U.S. Attorney in Phoenix were not immediately returned Friday.

Renzi referred all questions to his Washington-based attorney, Laura Miller, who was not immediately available Friday morning.

Thursday's developments came after Attorney General Alberto Gonzales spent the day testifying to the Senate Judiciary Committee about the firing of eight U.S. Attorneys, including the top federal prosecutor in Arizona, Paul K. Charlton.

Democrats in Arizona have suggested Charlton was fired on Dec. 7 because his office had opened investigations before the 2006 election into the Renzi land deal and a camping trip retired Rep. Jim Kolbe, R-Ariz., took with two former pages.

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