Mueller's investigation costs $22.4 million in just under a year, new documents show

Special Counsel Robert Mueller had previously reported a cost of about US$6.7 million for his first 4.5 months in office. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (WASHINGTON POST) - Special Counsel Robert Mueller III's investigation cost the government about US$16.7 million (S$22.4 million) in his first 10.5 months in office, new documents show, a not insignificant price tag that is sure to be used by President Donald Trump and his allies to attack the probe.

From the beginning of October through the end of the March, Mr Mueller's tab increased 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 previously reported a cost of about US$6.7 million for his first 4.5 months in office.

Mr Mueller 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 national security adviser Michael Flynn, former deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates and former campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos.

Mr 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 earlier this 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!"

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 through March, and indicated his investigation caused other Justice Department components to spend about US$5.5 million.

The money that Mr Mueller spent directly came from indefinite appropriation for independent counsels, which the Justice Department determined could be used to fund Mr Mueller's work. The department said the other money would have been spent by Justice Department components for the investigations "irrespective of the existence" of the special counsel's office.

From October through March, Mr Mueller, who has a team of 17 lawyers, spent US$2.7 million on personnel costs, the new documents show. He also spent more than a half million on travel and more than US$880,000 on rent, communications and utilities, the documents show.

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 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.

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