Mueller's inquiry cost $22m in just under a year

Trump likely to use price tag to attack special counsel probing Russian meddling in election

WASHINGTON • US special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation cost the government about US$16.7 million (S$22.4 million) in his first 101/2 months in office, new documents show, a not insignificant price tag that looks sure to be used by President Donald Trump and his allies to attack the probe.

From the beginning of October to the end of March, Mr Mueller's tab rose by about US$10 million, counting what he spent on personnel and other costs and what his investigation caused other Justice Department components to spend, the documents show.

Mr Mueller had earlier reported a cost of about US$6.7 million for his first 4.5 months in office.

He has made significant progress since he was appointed a little more than a year ago to investigate whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia to interfere with the 2016 election.

He has charged 19 people and three companies. Five people have pleaded guilty to various charges, including former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, former deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates and former campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos.

President Trump and his supporters, though, have relentlessly criticised Mr Mueller's work, and recent polling suggests while a majority of Americans still support the investigation, that support is slipping.

Even before the newest documents were released, Mr Trump had taken aim at the cost of the investigation, writing on Twitter last month: "At what point does this soon to be US$20,000,000 Witch Hunt, composed of 13 Angry and Heavily Conflicted Democrats and two people who have worked for Obama for 8 years, STOP!"

He had earlier estimated the cost of the probe at US$10 million.

The cost is not necessarily out of line with prior special investigations, and the documents note that Mr Mueller is reporting what his work has caused other Justice Department components to spend - which previous special counsels have not. Mr Mueller reported about US$4.5 million in expenditures from October to March, and indicated his investigation caused other Justice Department components to spend about US$5.5 million.

By comparison, Mr Lawrence Walsh, the prosecutor who investigated Reagan officials in the Iran-contra affair, spent US$47.4 million during his eight-year investigation. Former independent counsel Kenneth Starr spent more than US$52 million investigating then President Bill Clinton, and the five independent counsels appointed to look into various Clinton-related matters during the 1990s spent more than US$100 million.

On Thursday, Mr Trump again insisted he did not fire Federal Bureau of Investigation chief James Comey because of the Russia investigation, blaming the "Corrupt Mainstream Media" for pushing a false storyline.

The statement contradicts what he told NBC Nightly News last year in a televised interview.

Mr Trump also insisted the FBI had spied on his 2016 presidential campaign and claimed that the media "is working overtime" to avoid reporting about it.

WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 02, 2018, with the headline 'Mueller's inquiry cost $22m in just under a year'. Print Edition | Subscribe