Mueller probe’s expenses totaled $6.7M in early months

Mueller probe's expenses totaled $6.7M in early months

BY KATIE BO WILLIAMS  |   THE HILL

The total cost of the federal investigation into Russian interference in the U.S. election over the first four and a half months of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation is over $6.7 million, according to the first public accounting of the probe.

Mueller’s office spent just over $3.2 million from the date his appointment, May 17, through Sept. 30.

The bulk of the expenses went toward staff, with $1.7 million spent on salaries and benefits. The special counsel has hired 17 attorneys to date to work on the probe.

Just over $220,000 was spent on travel during that period, while $156 went to a mysterious line item: “Transportation of things.”

“Justice Department components that support the special counsel’s office,” meanwhile, spent an additional $3.5 million in expenditures “attributable to the investigations,” according to a report released Tuesday.

That figure “approximates expenditures the components would have incurred for the investigations irrespective of the existence of the SCO,” the report notes, referring to the Special Counsel’s Office.

Mueller is required to produce a public expense report every six months, giving critics repeated opportunities to bludgeon the special counsel with his budget. Trump has tweeted about the “costly” investigation, and some conservatives have argued that it is a waste of taxpayer dollars.

But Congress has few avenues to cut off Mueller’s funding. His budget is not part of the annual Justice Department funding package that Congress approves, but instead comes from a permanent Treasury Department account. And the Justice regulations stipulate that he must be provided “all appropriate resources” to conduct this investigation.

The only way Congress could cut off Mueller’s cash flow would likely be passing a stand-alone bill or attaching a rider to a spending bill blocking money for the investigation.

But there appears to be little appetite amongst Republican leadership to take that step.

Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) in August tried to attach an amendment to a House spending package that would have put a six-month limit on Mueller’s investigation and blocked him from investigating conduct that occurred prior to March 2015. House leadership did not allow the amendment to come to the floor for a vote.

Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) said earlier this fall that he would keep an eye on the spending but didn’t want to impede Mueller.

“I don’t want to deny the Justice Department or the special counsel the resources they need. Now, I don’t want to see them just go hog wild and waste money either, but I don’t want to try to do anything to hurt [them],” he said.

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