What exactly is former DNI James Clapper doing here? Speaking at the National Press Club of Australia, Clapper said he thinks the Watergate scandal, which brought down a sitting president, pales in comparison to the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
“I lived through Watergate, I was on active duty then in Air Force, a young officer and it was a scary time,” Clapper said. He continued, “But it was against the backdrop of all the post-Vietnam trauma as well, which seemed, at least in my memory, amplified as a backdrop…amplified the crisis in our system with Watergate.
“I have to say though that I think, you know compare the two, that Watergate pales really in my view compared to what we’re confronting now.” Here’s a clip of the speech from the Associated Press. The line about Watergate comes at the end.
Unfortunately, an unedited video of the entire speech does not seem to be available yet. So it’s not completely clear where Clapper is going with this. But NBC News reports Clapper engaged in plenty of bashing of the president during the same speech (though it’s not clear if this came before or after his Watergate statement):
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 independency 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…
“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.
So getting back to that question I opened with, what is Clapper doing here? Why is he comparing an investigation that is just ramping up under Robert Mueller, to a fully investigated act which resulted in a president resigning and people going to prison? In short, how can anyone say what we’re investigating now is worse if we don’t yet know what the outcome will be? That’s the point Philip Mudd made on a CNN panel responding to this today:
Over at Fox News, Mike Huckabee raised pretty much the same objection and added, “I wonder if Clapper is sniffing glue?”
Hopefully, Clapper will be asked to clarify his remarks. In what sense is the Russian influence investigation, as it stands now, worse than Watergate?