Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona has compared the controversy surrounding President Donald Trump's firing of former FBI director James Comey to the Watergate scandal that resulted in former President Richard Nixon's resignation.
On May 16, McCain received the International Republican Institute's Freedom Award. During the celebratory dinner, McCain stated that the controversy amid growing questions about whether Trump had attempted to obstruct an FBI investigation had reached a "Watergate size and scale."
On May 16, it was disclosed that Comey had written an FBI memo detailing a private conversation between himself and Trump in February, when the president allegedly asked him to drop an FBI investigation into former White House National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, The New York Times reports.
On Feb. 13, Flynn resigned amid reports that he had misled the White House about his communications with Russian officials. The FBI was investigating the national security adviser's communications with Russia as well as his financial ties to foreign governments. The Comey memo alleged that Trump personally asked the FBI director to drop the probe on Feb. 14.
"I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go," Trump said.
Comey wrote the memo shortly after the meeting. The former FBI director reportedly documented his conversations and impressions on a habitual basis.
"It goes to his credibility," former FBI official Lauren Anderson said of Comey's notetaking. "The fact that he wrote it when it happened lends weight to it. It's not like he wrote something last weekend and backdated it."
McCain expressed concern about the allegations, telling the audience at his awards dinner that Trump's controversy with the FBI would likely worsen.
"I think we've seen this movie before," McCain said, according to The Daily Beast. "I think it appears at a point where it's of Watergate size and scale... the shoes continue to drop, and every couple days there's a new aspect."
The Arizona senator added that he would advise Trump to "get it all out... it's not going to be over until every aspect of it is thoroughly examined and the American people make a judgment. And the longer you delay, the longer it's going to last."
In July 1974, Nixon promptly resigned after Congress obtained an audio recording of him ordering an FBI investigation into the Watergate break-in be halted. The evidence turned enough GOP lawmakers against the former president, making impeachment inevitable, according to USA Today.
The first article of impeachment brought against Nixon was for "using the powers of his high office, engaged personally and through his close subordinates and agents, in a course of conduct or plan designed to delay, impede, and obstruct the investigation of such illegal entry; to cover up, conceal and protect those responsible; and to conceal the existence and scope of other unlawful covert activities."
On May 16, Republican Gov. John Kasich of Ohio stated that more information and procedure was needed before the Comey memo could be compared to the audiotapes that toppled Nixon.
"Ultimately the Republicans said there was something wrong that was done, they went down to the White House and said, 'Mr. President you have to resign,'" Kasich said of the Watergate scandal during a debate on CNN. "But we're a long way away from anything like that."