Mueller de­tails $6.7M spent in early months of Rus­sia probe

El Dorado News-Times - - National -

WASHINGTON (AP) — The spe­cial coun­sel investigation into pos­si­ble co­or­di­na­tion be­tween Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump's cam­paign and Rus­sia dur­ing the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion has cost more than $6.7 mil­lion so far, ac­cord­ing to a fi­nan­cial re­port released Tues­day.

The re­lease of the re­port by spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller's of­fice comes as the investigation ap­pears to be gain­ing steam: Pros­e­cu­tors have gained a key co­op­er­a­tor in their investigation and re­vealed that they are keenly fo­cused on the ac­tions of the pres­i­dent and his in­ner circle.

Of the over­all price tag, only about $3.2 mil­lion was spent di­rectly by the spe­cial coun­sel's of­fice. An ad­di­tional $3.5 mil­lion was paid out by the Jus­tice Depart­ment to sup­port the investigation, though the spe­cial coun­sel's of­fice says that money would have been spent on on­go­ing probes any­way, even if Mueller had not been ap­pointed.

Mueller in­cor­po­rated sev­eral ac­tive in­ves­ti­ga­tions within the Jus­tice Depart­ment in­clud­ing those of Trump cam­paign con­tacts with Rus­sia, for­mer Trump cam­paign chair­man Paul Manafort's busi­ness ac­tiv­i­ties and for­mer national se­cu­rity ad­viser Michael Flynn.

The de­tails of the ex­pen­di­tures re­lated to Mueller's investigation were laid out in a re­port released pub­licly by the spe­cial coun­sel's of­fice. The re­port cov­ers from May 17, the date of Mueller's ap­point­ment, through Sept. 30, the end of the fed­eral fis­cal year.

Ac­cord­ing to Mueller's re­port, the spe­cial coun­sel's of­fice spent about $1.7 mil­lion for salaries and ben­e­fits and more than $223,000 for travel-re­lated ex­penses. The ma­jor­ity of the travel costs stemmed from the re­lo­ca­tion of Jus­tice Depart­ment em­ploy­ees tem­po­rar­ily as­signed to the ex­pand­ing investigation.

The of­fice also spent nearly $734,000 on equip­ment and about $363,000 on rent, com­mu­ni­ca­tions and util­i­ties.

Pre­vi­ous spe­cial coun­sel in­ves­ti­ga­tions, in­clud­ing probes of Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton in the late 1990s, have also spent mil­lions over a few months' time.

A 1999 Gen­eral Ac­count­ing Of­fice re­port, for ex­am­ple, showed that in­de­pen­dent coun­sel Ken­neth Starr's of­fice spent $6.2 mil­lion in the last six months of 1998, though it's un­clear if that amount in­cluded both di­rect ex­pen­di­tures by the spe­cial coun­sel and sup­port­ing agency costs. In the re­port released Tues­day, Mueller's of­fice noted that pre­vi­ous spe­cial coun­sels only re­ported di­rect costs and not those in­curred sep­a­rately by the Jus­tice Depart­ment on their own ex­pen­di­ture re­ports.

The four-and-a-half year in­ves­ti­ga­tions headed by Starr and his suc­ces­sor, Robert Ray, cost more than $52 mil­lion in tax­payer funds as they probed Clin­ton and then-first lady Hil­lary Clin­ton.

A 2000 Gen­eral Ac­count­ing Of­fice re­port that de­tailed those fig­ures said that $36 mil­lion came from con­gres­sional ap­pro­pri­a­tions and $16 mil­lion from other fed­eral agency costs. Starr's pre­de­ces­sor, Robert Fiske, spent an ad­di­tional $6 mil­lion in­ves­ti­gat­ing the Clin­tons' in­volve­ment in the White­wa­ter real es­tate deal, ac­cord­ing to a May 1999 GAO re­port.

Starr's investigation turned over doc­u­men­ta­tion to the GOPled House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, which im­peached Bill Clin­ton in De­cem­ber 1998 on sin­gle charges of per­jury and ob­struc­tion of jus­tice re­lated to his af­fair with in­tern Mon­ica Lewin­sky. A Se­nate vote in Fe­bru­ary 1999 failed to con­vict Clin­ton on those charges.

So far, Mueller's team has charged four peo­ple as part of the on­go­ing investigation.

Last week, Flynn pleaded guilty to a felony charge of ly­ing to the FBI and agreed to co­op­er­ate with Mueller's in­ves­ti­ga­tors. Ge­orge Pa­padopou­los, a for­mer Trump cam­paign for­eign pol­icy ad­viser, made a sim­i­lar plea deal with Mueller's pros­e­cu­tors in Oc­to­ber. Both men ad­mit­ted to ly­ing to the FBI about their con­tacts with Rus­sians re­lated to their work for Trump.

In ad­di­tion, Manafort and his long­time busi­ness as­so­ci­ate, Rick Gates, are cur­rently fac­ing sev­eral felony charges brought by the spe­cial coun­sel's of­fice. Those charges in­volve al­le­ga­tions of money laun­der­ing and other fi­nan­cial crimes re­lated to their po­lit­i­cal con­sult­ing work in Ukraine.

In its re­port, Mueller's team notes that it draws its fund­ing from a re­volv­ing "per­ma­nent, in­def­i­nite" ap­pro­pri­a­tion for in­de­pen­dent coun­sels pro­vided by Congress, as well as from non-re­im­bursed Jus­tice Depart­ment agency ex­pen­di­tures and from in­tel­li­gence agency ap­pro­pri­a­tions.

In a state­ment, the spe­cial coun­sel's of­fice said it will re­lease a sim­i­lar ex­pen­di­ture re­port after March 31, 2018.

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