Trump-Russia collusion claims 'worse than Watergate', says former US intelligence official

The Watergate scandal that brought down a president "pales" in comparison with allegations that Donald Trump's election campaign colluded with Russians, a former US intelligence official has said.

James Clapper, director of national intelligence until Mr Trump took office in January, told Australia's National Press Club the cover-up of a 1972 burglary at the Democratic Party national headquarters in the Watergate complex in Washington that ended Richard Nixon's presidency "was a scary time".

But the allegations under multiple investigations of Russian meddling in last year's presidential election are more concerning, he said.

"I think (if) you compare the two that Watergate pales really, in my view, compared to what we're confronting now," he said.

Mr Clapper said Mr Trump's firing of FBI director Jim Comey, whom Mr 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.

Mr 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", he added.

He said the sharing compromised the Israeli source of the intelligence.

Mr Trump, when president-elect, branding the intelligence agencies as Nazis over their assessment of Russian political interference was prompted by "his team's extreme paranoia about and resentment of any doubt cast on the legitimacy of his election", Mr 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."

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