Former US director of national intelligence James Clapper has absolutely roasted Donald Trump, saying the Watergate scandal "pales" in comparison to the allegations facing the new president.
In a one hour speech and Q&A session at Australia's National Press Club on Wednesday, Clapper suggested the crisis surrounding Trump's presidency is unprecedented in modern times.
"I lived through Watergate, I was on active duty then in the Air Force, I was a young officer, it was a scary time," Clapper said.
"I have to say though, I think if you compare the two, Watergate pales really in my view compared to what we're confronting now."
Barack Obama's director of national intelligence from 2010-17 was the guest of the Australian National University, and used his prepared remarks to accuse Russia and president Trump of launching an "assault" on US institutions.
"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 cited Trump's public attacks on the intelligence community before taking office, and the firing of FBI director James Comey.
Clapper also revealed that Trump asked him during a phone call on January 11 to publicly "refute" a report from the intelligence community that Russia had meddled in the election.
"Ever transactional, he simply asked me to publicly refute the infamous dossier, which I couldn't and wouldn't do."
Several local journalists asked Clapper about how the Trump presidency could affect the long standing alliance between US and Australia.
Clapper said Trump's actions in revealing information to Russians in the Oval Office that had come from another nation's intelligence operatives, reflected "either ignorance or disrespect", adding that countries in the Five Eyes intelligence community might start re-thinking what information they share with the US.
"I hope it doesn't happen, but I could certainly understand if it did, and that's a judgement that each and every national government will have to make."
Asked about what it would take for Trump's base to start losing trust in the president, Clapper suggested that Americans will be watching the Senate testimony of James Comey on Thursday (US time).
"I'm very interested to see what happens with Jim Comey's hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee," Clapper said. "What I think will be very significant to see, both what he says, and what he is asked about and doesn't respond to."
Mark Di Stefano is a media and politics reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Mark Di Stefano at email@example.com.
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