John McCain pulls back from Watergate comparisons over Trump-Russia concerns

John McCain says Donald Trump's problems don't mean we're at Watergate — not yet

By Matthew Sheffield

Published May 22, 2017 12:26PM (EDT)

 (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Last week, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., surely ruffled some feathers in the Trump administration when he told a Republican gathering that numerous, damaging leaks that have been continually emerging regarding President Trump's Russia scandal have reached "Watergate size and scale."

On Sunday, the former GOP presidential nominee tried to partially walk back his remarks, saying only that he was referring to the potential gravity of the scandal and did not mean to imply that Trump could be impeached or removed from office.

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"With the appointment of Mr. Mueller, we've now hit that stage of a scandal," McCain said during an interview with "Fox News Sunday." "And now, the question is, how is this handled?"

The Arizona senator then cited the Iran-contra scandal that occurred in the 1980s which he believed then-president Ronald Reagan handled well.

McCain also expressed shock at a Friday New York Times story which reported that Trump boasted about his firing of "nut job" former FBI director James Comey in a May 10 meeting with Russia's foreign minister.

“I’m almost speechless, because I don’t know why someone would say something like that,” McCain said.

Notably, the White House has not pushed back against the Times report. But Sergey Lavrov, the Russian diplomat Trump met with on May 10, has disputed it.

"We have not touched this topic at all," Lavrov told reporters in Nicosia, Cyprus, on May 20. He spoke nothing further on the topic

Matthew Sheffield

A writer, web developer, and former tv producer, Matthew Sheffield covers politics, media, and technology for Salon. You can email him via or follow him on Twitter.

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