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James Clapper says Watergate 'pales' in comparison to the Trump-Russia scandal

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper suggested Wednesday that the scandal unraveling around President Trump and Russia is an even bigger deal than the Watergate scandal that brought down former President Richard Nixon. "I think, you compare the two, that Watergate pales, really, in my view, compared to what we're confronting now," Clapper said in a speech to Australia's National Press Club. His remarks came a day before former FBI Director James Comey, whom Trump abruptly fired last month, will testify before Congress about his conversations with Trump regarding the Russia probe.

Clapper, who served under former President Barack Obama and who has testified before Congress on the Russia investigation, dubbed Trump's insistence on maintaining a pro-Russia stance "inexplicable," especially in light of U.S. intelligence agencies' overwhelming consensus that Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. "His subsequent actions, sharing sensitive intelligence with the Russians and compromising its source, reflect either ignorance or disrespect and either is very problematic," Clapper said, referring to Trump sharing highly classified information with Russian officials in the Oval Office just a day after he fired Comey.

On top of that, Clapper said he's worried about the Trump team's "extreme paranoia about and resentment of any doubt cast on the legitimacy of his election." He noted how Trump attacked U.S. intelligence agencies for their assessment of Russia's election meddling. "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.

Catch a clip of Clapper's speech below. Becca Stanek