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McCain walks back Watergate comments on Trump controversies

5/16/17: Red and Blue

Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona is softening his tone after comparing President Trump's recent string of missteps to that of the Watergate scandal that rocked President Nixon's administration.

Following reports that Mr. Trump had asked former FBI Director James Comey to drop an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, McCain told CBS News' Bob Schieffer that Mr. Trump's saga of controversy was reaching a "Watergate size and scale."

"The only thing I can say is I think we've seen this movie before, I think it's reaching the point where it's of Watergate size and scale and a couple other scandals you and I have seen, it's a centipede that the shoe continues to drop, and every couple of days there's a new aspect of this really unhappy situation, McCain told Schieffer at an event honoring the Arizona Republican last week.  

McCain: Trump's actions are of "Watergate size and scale"

McCain added, "And you my friends, none of us, no matter what our political leanings are, no matter how we feel about Trump, we feel this is not good for America."

But in an interview with Fox News' Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday," McCain appeared to walk back his previous comments, saying he was referring to the administration's managing of the situation, and not the scandal itself.

"Now the question is, how is it handled? Is it handled the way Watergate was where it's drip, drip, drip, every day more, or do we handle it like the—like Ronald Reagan handled Iran Contra?" McCain said. "It was a scandal. He fired people. He went on national television and said, we made mistakes, we did wrong and we're not going to do it again and the American people let him move forward."

McCain said Mr. Trump's abrupt firing of Comey wasn't "a smart thing to do," and he also told Wallace that he didn't know what to make of Mr. Trump's latest comments to Russian officials, in which he reportedly called Comey "a real nut job," according to the New York Times.

"I don't know how to read it except that—and I—I'm almost speechless because I don't know why to—how—why someone would say something like that," said McCain on Sunday.

Mr. Trump had also, according to the Times, told Russian officials in a White House meeting that Comey's dismissal had "relieved pressure" he had faced from the ongoing FBI investigation. 

Comey has recently agreed to testify in a public hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee to discuss the circumstances surrounding his sudden departure sometime after Memorial Day next week.