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McCain: Russia probe reaching the point ‘of Watergate size’

WASHINGTON — Sen. John McCain invoked Watergate in describing the escalating controversy surrounding alleged ties between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia.

“I think it’s reaching the point where it’s of Watergate size and scale, and a couple of other scandals you and I have seen,” the Arizona Republican said Tuesday night. “It’s the centipede that the shoe continues to drop. Every couple of days, there’s a new aspect of this really unhappy situation.”

McCain discussed the series of scandals that brought down Richard Nixon’s presidency at the International Republican Institute’s 2017 Freedom Dinner, where he was being honored. He shared his thoughts about the latest White House news on a panel moderated by former “Face the Nation” host Bob Schieffer.

The New York Times reported Tuesday that former FBI Director James Comey had written a memo describing a meeting he had with President Trump, at which the President asked him to end the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn. CNN has confirmed the details of that memo, which has raised questions about whether the President obstructed justice.

McCain’s office quickly issued a statement clarifying his remarks Tuesday night.

“Senator McCain’s comments tonight were simply meant to convey that the constant revelations of events surrounding Russia’s interference in the 2016 election are reminiscent of past scandals, are not good for America and require further scrutiny,” said Julie Tarallo, a McCain spokeswoman. “He continues to call for a select committee to investigate all aspects of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and all of the events surrounding it.”

The former Republican presidential nominee said Wednesday that President Trump could take notes from how President Ronald Reagan handled the Iran-Contra affair, where senior administration officials secretly facilitated the sale of arms to Iran. Reagan appointed the three-person Tower Commission to look into the scandal, though the panel lacked certain investigative authorities, such as subpoena power.

“The way Reagan was able to overcome Iran-Contra was he got everything out so there were no more questions so the country could move on,” McCain told CNN. “That’s what we need to do now, is get all the information out and move forward.”

“Whenever you have something like this it’s very difficult to move forward because it requires people’s attention and it’s being diverted,” he added. “Watergate took many months. This thing seems to be taking hours.”

CNN’s Jeremy Herb and Manu Raju contributed to this report.