WASHINGTON (AP) — South Carolina GOP Rep. Trey Gowdy added his name Wednesday to the growing list of committee chairmen announcing they will not seek re-election, saying this is the right time for him to leave politics and return to the justice system.

Gowdy is chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and will be remembered for leading a two-year investigation into the deadly 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, which focused heavily on Hillary Clinton’s role as secretary of state. It was the committee’s probe that revealed Clinton used a private email server for government work, prompting an FBI investigation that proved to be an albatross in her presidential campaign.

Now, Gowdy is a key member of one of the Russia probes in Congress and the leader of a renewed investigation into the FBI and Clinton’s emails.

Gowdy was elected in the 2010 tea party wave that returned control of the House to Republicans. He is the ninth House committee chair to head for the exits, but several of the others faced the prospect of being term-limited out of that role or faced difficult re-election prospects. Gowdy did not have to account for such factors when making his decision, which made his decision all the more surprising.

In his statement, Gowdy, a former federal prosecutor, said: “whatever skills I may have are better utilized in a courtroom than in Congress, and I enjoy our justice system more than our political system. As I look back on my career, it is the jobs that both seek and reward fairness that are most rewarding.”

Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio, and the chairman of the arm that oversees Republican election efforts in the House, predicted that Gowdy’s seat will stay solidly in Republican control in November. “Trey Gowdy exemplifies the persona of a public servant,” Stivers said.

Gowdy has played a key role in the House intelligence committee’s investigation into Russian election interference and any possible coordination with President Donald Trump’s campaign.

gettyimages 655709936 GOP Rep. Gowdy, Former Chair Of Benghazi Panel, To Retire

WASHINGTON, D.C. – MARCH 20: Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

In closed-door interviews, he has been the chief questioner for the Republicans on the committee, relying on his prosecutorial experience to cross examine numerous witnesses. Among those witnesses were the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and Glenn Simpson, a Washington opposition researcher behind a dossier of allegations about Trump and his ties to Russia.

This week, Gowdy was among the committee members pushing for the release of a memo, drafted by Republicans, that alleges abuses of the government surveillance powers in the Russia investigation. Democrats have called the memo a “distraction” and a selectively edited group of GOP talking points.

Separately, Gowdy has used his chairmanship of the Oversight and Government Reform committee to renew scrutiny of the FBI’s handling of its investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server.

(© Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

More From CBS Dallas / Fort Worth

Drip Pan: CBS Local App
Drip Pan: Weather App
Drip Pan: Only CBS

Watch & Listen LIVE