Axios has called the Trump-Russia probe the “biggest political scandal in American history.” According to historians, the only two political scandals that come close to this one are Watergate and President Richard Nixon’s subsequent resignation in 1974, and the Teapot Dome scandal from the early 1920s, when oil barons bribed President Warren Harding’s aide for petroleum leases.
Mueller’s counterintelligence case is one of the largest in U.S. history, comparable with Aldrich Ames, who was a CIA officer working as a double agent for the KGB in 1994, and Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were executed in 1954 because they spied for the Soviets.
In contrast with Watergate, Mueller’s case has led to fewer charges. 69 people were charged in the Watergate scandal: 48 people and 20 corporations plead guilty. Only 27 people have been indicted in Mueller’s case thus far. Seven people have pleaded guilty or have been convicted.
The Watergate and Teapot Dome scandals were more limited because, unlike in the Trump-Russia scandal, no foreign power was in the center of the scandal.
Trump and his associates have already been involved in multiple scandals. The first is that Trump and his personal lawyer Michael Cohen paid hush money to two of Trump’s mistresses during his presidential campaign. Now, Cohen is going to prison for his involvement in the scheme. Former President Bill Clinton encountered a similar situation. He was impeached, but then acquitted by the Senate, because he lied under oath about an affair that he had. Earlier presidents have also been known to pay off women that they have had affairs with.
A second scandal is that during his campaign, Trump negotiated a lucrative business deal for a tower in Moscow. Trump hid the deal from the public and now his lawyer is going to prison for lying to Congress about the deal.
A third scandal is that during the 2016 campaign, Russian officials had over 100 contacts with Trump associates. Russians offered to assist in undermining Hillary Clinton.
In yet another scandal, Michael Flynn was the national security advisor during a time in which U.S. intelligence officials believed that he was compromised by Russia. He later pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russians.
In a fifth scandal, Trump fired director of the FBI James Comey and then told NBC’s Lester Holt that he did so at least partly because of the Russia investigation. He said. "[T]his Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story."
In a sixth and final scandal, Trump granted Jared Kushner, his son-in-law, top-secret clearance. Trump’s lawyers and intelligence experts advised him against doing so, and John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, recorded his opposition to the decision in a memo. Yet, Trump has denied repeatedly that Kelly interfered.
Jon Meacham, a presidential historian, says that this “transcends scandal - it’s a national crisis in the sense of a period of elevated stakes, high passions, and possibly permanent consequences.”