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Clapper: Watergate pales in comparison to Trump scandals

SYDNEY: Watergate pales in comparison to the scandals engulfing Donald Trump and the Russia connection, former top US intelligence official James Clapper said yesterday ahead of a key Senate hearing in Washington.

Mr Clapper, who has worked in intelligence under every US leader from John F. Kennedy to Barack Obama, said his instincts had always been loyalty to the president, regardless of which party they come from. But, for Mr Trump, he is making an exception.

"Now as a private citizen, 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 in Australia.

Asked at the National Press Club in Canberra what he thought the critical differences were between Watergate, which brought down Richard Nixon, and Mr Trump's troubles, he replied: "Watergate pales really compared to what we're confronting now."

The US administration is at the centre of an ever-widening probe into Moscow's meddling in last year's election and possible collusion by the Trump team.

Mr Clapper said he was at a loss as to why Trump's team appeared so keen to court Moscow.

"I characterise it as inexplicable. I don't understand that," said the director of national intelligence under Mr Obama.

"It is absolutely crucial for the United States and, for that matter, for the world that we get to the bottom of this.

"Is there a smoking gun with all the smoke? I don't know." - AFP

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