18 May 2017

Trump's White House 'surrounded by chaos'

3:28 pm on 18 May 2017

It is not exaggerating to compare the latest Donald Trump scandals to Watergate, which led to the resignation of President Nixon, the Washington Post reporter who broke the story says.

US President Donald Trump

US President Donald Trump Photo: AFP

The newspaper reported on Monday that Mr Trump had revealed sensitive information, possibly endangering a source when he met with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak last week.

Then on Wednesday, the New York Times reported that the FBI director he fired on Sunday, James Comey, had earlier shared a memo with staff saying the president had asked him to close an investigation into links between Russia and Michael Flynn.

Mr Flynn was Mr Trump's first national security adviser, but was fired after misleading the government over his meetings with Mr Kislyak - he apparently offered to reduce sanctions on Russia before he was appointed, but it is illegal for private citizens to conduct US diplomacy.

Michael Flynn

White House's National Security Advisor Michael Flynn after he was fired just 24 days into the job. Photo: AFP

Reporter Greg Miller broke the Washington Post story, and told Morning Report the scandals raised more questions about Mr Trump's fitness for office.

"I mean, I don't want to sound dramatic but there is just so much chaos surrounding the administration in Washington that it can be almost disorienting at times.

"There are stories every day in the press now about the atmosphere inside the White House, the screaming and yelling that is happening, the pointing of fingers, the fighting."

The number of leaks coming from the White House was astonishing, he said.

"It's this weird level of exposure that, frankly, I don't remember ever seeing in my career as a journalist.

"The Obama administration, the Bush administration: they would leak but they actually sought to impose great discipline on messaging and to contain the internal deliberations and speak with one voice - but this White House speaks with a million voices."

Senator John McCain this week said the administration's problems were reaching levels similar to the Watergate scandal which led to Richard Nixon's resignation as president. Miller said that was not inaccurate.

"People have been drawing comparisons to Watergate for some time now - and I think it's in part because of the role that the American press is playing in trying to get at secrets and understanding what's happening behind this administration - but I don't think it's that far off.

"I don't think it's an exaggeration."

He said he did not want to get ahead of events, and all the facts still needed to be assembled before anyone could say whether it would affect the presidency, but it "just increasingly looks like that".

"I mean, the defenders of the president are dwindling... No Trump officials were appearing on camera or answering questions directly about the letter from Comey.

"They've sort of gone into hiding right now and I think that's an indication of how alarmed they are."

Press secretary Shaun Spicer's language was revealing, he said.

"He's saying, 'Well, the President has made clear that,' or, 'The President believes that,' - that means Spicer does not want these words to reflect on him.

"He is attributing all of this in a very pointed fashion to the president in case these explanations unravel."

Russian President Vladimir Putin's offer to provide transcripts of the meeting between Mr Trump and the Russian Diplomats was not helpful, he said.

"I think that that is classic - you know, in social media what we would call - classic Russian 'trolling' of the United States and of this administration in particular.

"And I have no idea how Russia could provide such a transcript, except that it's based on the records of its own notetakers - if they actually recorded this meeting with Mr Trump that might be another breach."