CANBERRA, Australia – A former U.S. intelligence official said Wednesday the Watergate scandal that brought down a president "pales" in comparison with allegations that President Donald Trump's election campaign colluded with Russians.
James Clapper, director of national intelligence until Trump took office in January, told Australia's National Press Club the cover-up of a 1972 burglary at the Democratic Party national headquarters in the Watergate complex in Washington that ended Richard Nixon's presidency "was a scary time."
But the allegations under multiple investigations of Russian meddling in last year's presidential election were more concerning, he said.
"I think (if) you compare the two that Watergate pales really in my view compared to what we're confronting now," Clapper said.
Clapper said Trump firing FBI Director Jim Comey, whom Clapper described as a "personal friend and a personal hero of mine," reflected "complete disregard for the independence and autonomy" of the bureau.
Trump's sharing of classified intelligence with Russian diplomats of the Islamic State group's plotting reflected "either ignorance or disrespect and either is very problematic," Clapper said.
He said the sharing compromised the Israeli source of the intelligence.
President-elect Trump branding the intelligence agencies as Nazis over their assessment of Russian political interference was prompted by "his team's extreme paranoia about and resentment of any doubt cast on the legitimacy of his election," Clapper said.
"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," Clapper said.