Watergate 'pales in comparison' to Donald Trump's alleged Russia links, says former US intelligence chief

James Clapper says current President has launched an 'assault' on US democracy

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The Independent US

The crisis over Donald Trump’s alleged links to Russia is significantly worse than the Watergate scandal, according to a former US director of national intelligence. 

James Clapper said Watergate, which led to the resignation of Richard Nixon, “pales in comparison” to the current scandal engulfing Mr Trump.

Mr Clapper served as Barack Obama’s director of national intelligence from 2010 to 2017.

"I lived through Watergate, I was on active duty then in the Air Force, I was a young officer, it was a scary time,” Mr Clapper said.

"I have to say though, I think if you compare the two, Watergate pales really in my view compared to what we're confronting now."

It is “absolutely crucial for the United States, and for that matter for the world, for this presidency, for the Republicans, for the Democrats and for our nation at large, that we get to the bottom of this,” he added.

“Is there a smoking gun with all the smoke? I don’t know the answer to that. I think it’s vital, though, we find that out.”

Speaking at Australia’s National Press Club, Mr Clapper attacked Mr Trump for launching an “assault” on the institutions of US democracy.

"I am very concerned about the assault on our institutions coming from both an external source, read Russia, and an internal source, the President himself,” he said.

He said Mr Trump’s closeness to Vladimir Putin was “very problematic” and said the Republican’s firing of FBI director James Comey was “egregious and inexcusable”.

Mr Clapper also revealed that, during a private phone call in January, Mr Trump had asked him to “refute” an intelligence report suggesting Russia had interfered in the presidential election.

"Ever transactional, he simply asked me to publicly refute the infamous dossier, which I couldn't and wouldn't do,” the former intelligence chief.

It comes days before Mr Comey is due to give his highly anticipated verbal testimony to the Senate intelligence committee, which is examining whether Mr Trump’s team colluded with Russia in an attempt to influence the election outcome.

"I'm very interested to see what happens with Jim Comey's hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee," Mr Clapper said. "What I think will be very significant to see, both what he says, and what he is asked about and doesn't respond to."