On Wednesday, former director of national intelligence James Clapper told an audience in Australia that the allegations that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign “pales” in comparison with Watergate. Speaking at Australia’s National Press Club, Clapper called Watergate “a scary time.” However, the idea of Russia playing an active role in trying to undermine a U.S. election was considerably more concerning.
“I think (if) you compare the two that Watergate pales really in my view compared to what we’re confronting now,” Clapper said.
Clapper, a retired lieutenant in the United States Air Force, was nominated to be the director of national intelligence in June of 2010 upon the recommendation of Defense Secretary Robert Gates. He was confirmed in August and served until January 2017 when Trump became president. Dan Coats is the current director of national intelligence. Coats is scheduled to appear before Congress on Wednesday to discuss the Russia allegations.
As for the Russia allegations, Clapper isn’t alone when it comes to making comparisons between them and Watergate. Senator John McCain has also made the comparison, doing so before walking them back a short time later.
Despite resigning from public office at the end of President Obama’s term, Clapper has continued to draw the spotlight and attention of the media. When the president made his unsubstantiated claims that he was the subject of a wiretap at the direction of Obama, Clapper strongly denied those claims, saying that “there was no such wiretap activity mounted against the president, the president-elect at the time, or as a candidate, or against the campaign.” Clapper also denied the existence of a FISA warrant, a warrant that would have been issued to approve any such wiretap.
In addition to making Watergate comparisons, Clapper also told the Australian audience that “some American institutions are under assault.”
“So the question: How long can these assaults go on and the institutions not be irrevocably damaged?” Clapper said. “I honestly can’t say.”