According to one former government official quoted by McClatchy, former FBI Director James Comey was not only expanding the FBI investigation into possible collusion between the Trump presidential campaign and Russia, he and the FBI “had reason to expand the investigation internationally,” including examining “other business activities and holdings of Paul Manafort (Trump’s former campaign chairman) beyond his work in Ukraine.”
Manafort was a consultant in Ukraine for roughly ten years for some pro-Russia oligarchs as well as pro-Russian Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who was ousted in 2014. Ukrainian lawmaker Sergii Leshchenko said in March that he had a six-page document found in a safe in Kiev that indicated Manafort had tried to mask payments to Manafort totaling $750,000 from Yanukovych's party.
The former government official speaking to McClatchy believed Manafort and associated businesses had received between $80 million and $100 million for their work on behalf of Ukrainian and other foreign clients.
Carrie Cordero, a former counselor to the assistant attorney general for national security, told a podcast by Lawfare, “This was obviously the most important, most sensitive, most critical investigation that the FBI is currently conducting. So that means it is more likely than not that the director has been getting briefed probably every single day.” She added that Comey’s firing would impede the federal investigation, saying, “This is, in my opinion, going to cause delay, going to cause questions amongst the investigators in terms of their leadership,” she said.
Barry Coburn, a former federal prosecutor, echoed, “It’s undoubtedly going to cause some dislocation inside the FBI and to people in the National Security Division of Justice. They have to get reorganized to figure out who will be the point person in the FBI and who will make key investigative decisions. It raises very substantial concerns about the possibility that whoever takes over from Comey might stop, subvert, divert or otherwise impact the investigative activity that otherwise would have been taken.”
Alex Whiting, a former federal prosecutor who now teaches at Harvard Law School, said that Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, who recommended that Comey be fired, “is very weakened” and as a result, senior Justice Department officials will urge him to name a special counsel to take over the Russia influence investigation. He concluded, “It’s very possible that in the next few days, the political pressure will be so intense that he’ll have little choice… Any time that there’s a perception that the independence of the Justice Department may have been compromised by a political decision, that’s very damaging to the institution. And it’s a lasting damage.”