Russiagate? Is Donald Trump heading for his Watergate over relations with Russia?

Amanda Walker, US Correspondent

At a protest outside the Justice Department on Thursday a demonstrator told me he was "absolutely certain" that the Russia controversy would become Donald Trump's Watergate and eventually bring him down.

Wishful thinking for any anti-Trump protester but he's not alone.

Republican Senator Lindsay Graham echoed that sentiment when he said if the Russia ties allegations are true "it would be the biggest political scandal since Watergate".

Even Richard Nixon's lawyer, John Dean, has joined the chorus, saying he sees "echoes of Watergate" in the Trump administration.

In a controversy-rich campaign and presidency, Russia is the issue that just will not go away.

There is no doubt that if links - or worse still, collusion - with Russia during the election are proved it could have a catastrophic impact on Mr Trump's presidency.

Mr Trump's unusual praise of Vladimir Putin throughout his campaign was perplexing, especially when you consider that, largely, the bipartisan view of the Russian leader is that he is an adversary of America.

A total of 17 US intelligence agencies arrived at a consensus: Russia had used a portfolio of propaganda, including hacking and "fake news", to interfere with the US election with the specific aim of helping Mr Trump and hurting his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

The focus then became whether the Trump campaign had contact with Russian officials before election day.

The Trump team has repeatedly denied this but through more leaks we learned that intelligence officials had evidence of constant contact.

Twice now, Trump officials have been caught misleading or lying about their contact with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak.

Retired General Michael Flynn - one of Trump's closest advisers - misled senior White House officials over his contact with Mr Kislyak which ultimately forced him to resign from his National Security Adviser role .

Attorney-general Jeff Sessions - another Trump insider - had to remove himself from overseeing the investigation into the whole matter because of his involvement in the campaign.

He too was at best unclear about his meetings with the Russian ambassador.

It has since emerged that a total of six Trump advisers have met Mr Kislyak, including Mr Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner.

What we do not know and what is absolutely crucial is what they discussed and whether they were complicit in Russia's meddling.

Another key question - what led US intelligence officials to conclude that Russia's aim was to help Mr Trump?

Is there proof that their tactics were discussed with Trump campaign officials?

No such evidence has been seen but if it does exist, in these leak-filled days, it could surface at any time.

Only then would the predictions of a Watergate-level scandal become the biggest challenge yet for this embattled presidency.

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