Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s election meddling and possible collusion with the Donald Trump campaign has cost more than $3.2 million, his office disclosed in a statement of expenditures on Tuesday. With additional Department of Justice costs related to the probe, the total amount is close to $7 million.
The amount covers the period from May 17, when the Department of Justice announced its appointment of Mueller, to September 30. The figure includes around $1.7 million for personnel compensation and benefits, $223,643 for travel and the transportation of people, $362,550 for rent, communications and utilities and $773,969 for the acquisition of equipment.
The money comes from a Department of the Treasury account, not the Justice Department budget. But the special counsel’s office said the Justice Department had spent an additional $3,546,000 on expenditures related to the Mueller probe that the agency “would have incurred for the investigations irrespective of the existence of the [special counsel’s office].” The office said it will conduct a similar review every six months and release its next statement about spending after March 31.
While it is unclear how long the Mueller probe will last, the expenditures of past investigations by special or independent counsels involving presidential administrations have run into the tens of millions of dollars. During the 1990s, in the final six months of Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr’s investigation involving former President Bill Clinton, his office spent $6.2 million, the General Accounting Office said at the time. Adjusted for inflation, that amount would be $9.2 million in 2017. The total for the Starr probe, which lasted four and a half years, was $39.2 million, or around $58 million in today’s dollars. Prior to Starr’s involvement, Special Counsel Robert Fiske Jr. spent $6 million, the equivalent of $8.9 million today.
Additional independent counsel investigations during the Clinton administration cost millions of dollars, too. A probe involving former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Henry Cisneros cost at least $8.7 million (equal to $12.9 million now). The price tag on another, focused on former Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy, was $19.2 million ($28.5 million now). Two more probes during that era cost a combined $5 million ($7.4 million now), bringing the total for all the Clinton administration investigations to close to $80 million, or $118.7 million, adjusted for inflation.
“They start from scratch,” said Roscoe Howard, a former U.S. attorney who was an associate independent counsel during the Clinton years. “They’ve got to rent a place, they’re going to pay a lease fee just like everybody else.” And when borrowing investigators from federal agencies, as Mueller has done, “you absorb the government salaries,” he said. Bringing in witnesses or traveling to see them can also be costly, he added.
The Mueller amount, Howard said, is “really not that bad. It doesn’t sound luxurious to me.”
But the price tag is drawing condemnation from Republican lawmakers who have previously called for Mueller’s resignation. “They must be having one hell of a Christmas party,” Representative Matt Gaetz, a Republican from Florida, told Newsweek on Tuesday. Referring to George Papadopoulos and Michael Flynn, who have pleaded guilty in the probe, he added, “What they’ve been able to turn up so far is an intern who wanted the president to meet with Russian officials but was rejected, and a former national security adviser who has pled guilty to the very conduct that resulted in his firing.”
Gaetz is one of three Republicans in the House of Representatives who on November 3 introduced a nonbinding resolution claiming Mueller “is compromised and should resign.” Earlier, in August, Representative Ron DeSantis, another Republican from Florida, put forward an amendment that would cut funding to the special counsel effort six months after its passage, and limit the scope of the probe to matters after June 2015.
But others in Congress said they see no problem with the amount the investigation has cost. Senator Dianne Feinstein, the Democratic ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a statement on Tuesday that the figure “is entirely reasonable given the results we’ve already seen.” She continued, “With two individuals having entered guilty pleas and two more facing federal charges, it’s clear the investigation is moving forward.”
Trump has repeatedly called the investigation a “witch hunt,” and he tweeted in October, “It is now commonly agreed, after many months of COSTLY looking, that there was NO collusion between Russia and Trump. Was collusion with HC [Hillary Clinton]!”
Mueller’s effort has advanced in the past five weeks. On October 30, his office announced charges against Paul Manafort, Rick Gates and Papadopoulos, all of whom were involved in Trump’s presidential campaign. On December 1, the office announced a charge against Flynn, the president’s former national security adviser. Papadopoulos and Flynn have pleaded guilty to lying to federal agents about contacts they had with foreign nationals.
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