Donald Trump’s growing Russia scandal is shaping up to be worse than Watergate, the former top ethics lawyer in the George Bush White House said this week.
As his administration continues to fight off accusations that they were in close contact with Russia during the 2016 election, Trump’s pick for attorney general was sucked in after a report that he met with the Russian ambassador a number of times during the campaign — after telling the Senate that he had no contact with Russia — came to light.
A report from U.S. intelligence agencies concluded late last year that Russian intelligence officials had interfered with the U.S. election, hacking the emails of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chief John Podesta and the Democratic National Committee in order to damage Clinton politically.
A dossier compiled by a former British MI6 intelligence official claimed that Trump’s campaign was in close coordination with Russians on this cyber attack, and that Russian officials had been working for years to cultivate Trump as a candidate by collecting comprising material and offering him lucrative business deals.
A series of reports have now uncovered contact between Trump’s top campaign officials and Russian interests, though the allegations that Trump’s campaign actively colluded with Russia remain unproven.
But as the Russia scandal deepens — with top security adviser Michael Flynn already resigning after it was revealed that he had contact with the Russian ambassador on the day Barack Obama announced sanctions related to the election interference — one top former White House official said it is shaping up to look worse than Watergate.
Richard Painter, the top ethics lawyer for George W. Bush’s White House between 2005 and 2007, told Vox that Trump’s scandal is looking very bad.
“The facts now in this investigation are much worse than the facts in the early stages of Watergate, which was a simple break-in ordered by midlevel campaign officials — not by the president. Here we have facts that are much worse: We have a foreign power that has orchestrated a break-in. It’s a much worse situation than the outset of Watergate.”
Painter went on to say that Trump should be conducting a full inquiry into which officials in his campaign may have had contact with Russia, but instead he is covering up and making himself look worse — much like Richard Nixon during Watergate.
And Donald Trump is not the only one who could be in serious trouble due to the Russia scandal. After the revelation that Attorney General Jeff Sessions met with the Russian ambassador and then told the Senate that he had no contact with Russia, Painter said that Sessions could end up in jail.
“Misleading the Senate in sworn testimony about one’s own contacts with the Russians is a good way to go to jail,” Painter tweeted late Wednesday.
Misleading the Senate in sworn testimony about one own contacts with the Russians is a good way to go to jail https://t.co/qH0s6sTMJ9
— Richard W. Painter (@RWPUSA) March 2, 2017
Painter later expanded on his thoughts, telling CNN in an interview that Sessions must leave his position as attorney general.
“Based on what I heard thus far, I don’t think he can continue as Attorney General,” he said, via the Washington Examiner. “I don’t think he was truthful with the Senate. He did not provide full and complete information.”
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) March 3, 2017
But even as the Russia scandal continues to deepen, Donald Trump continues to deny having any contact with Russia and is standing by Jeff Sessions. On Thursday night, the president said he does not believe the attorney general did anything wrong in regard to his testimony before the Senate.
[Featured Image by Aude Guerrucci – Pool/Getty Images]