WASHINGTON - Special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion with President Trump's associates has cost taxpayers at least $3.2 million so far, according to Justice Department records released Tuesday.
The expenditures are the first public accounting of the costs associated with Mueller's far-reaching investigation, which has so far resulted in charges against four former aides to Trump's campaign.
Last week, Mueller announced charges against Trump's former national security adviser Michael Flynn, the only aide charged who also served in his presidential administration. In exchange for pleading guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, Flynn has agreed to cooperate with Mueller's team in the continuing investigation.
The costs covered a five month period beginning on May 17 until the end of the fiscal year on September 30.
Mueller was appointed as special counsel in May, in the wake of Trump's abrupt firing of FBI director James Comey, who had been overseeing the Russia probe. Attorney General Jeff Sessions had recused himself from the Russia investigation, and his deputy Rod Rosenstein appointed Mueller to oversee the probe.
The largest cost listed in Mueller's budget statement – $1.7 million – accounted for salary and benefits for 17 attorneys. The team also has spent $223,643 on travel; $362,000 for rent; and $733,969 for equipment.
In addition to the money Mueller spent, other Justice Department agencies spent an additional $3.5 million to support the investigation during the same time period.
A Justice review of the financial reporting "identified no material weaknesses or significant deficiencies in the design or operation of the (special counsel office's) controls."
California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the Senate Judiciary Committee's ranking Democrat, called Mueller's costs "entirely reasonable, given the results we've already seen."
"With two individuals having entered guilty pleas and two more facing federal charges, it’s clear the investigation is moving forward," Feinstein said. “I continue to strongly support Bob Mueller’s investigation and believe he should receive all the resources he needs to follow the facts and the law where they lead.”
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