There has been rampant speculation in recent weeks and months that the Robert Mueller-led special counsel investigation into alleged Russian interference and collusion with the Trump campaign in 2016 is drawing near a close.
However, it was just revealed that should the investigation need to continue for the foreseeable future, it already has funding set aside through the rest of the 2019 fiscal year, if not the next fiscal year as well.
Funded through end of fiscal year
Reuters reported that the question of funding for the Mueller investigation arose following the release of President Donald Trump’s proposed 2020 budget, given that the issue itself was not addressed within the financing requests prepared by the White House and the Department of Justice (DOJ).
The reason for this, according to unnamed U.S. officials cited in the report, is that funding for special counsel investigations is instead handled by the U.S. Treasury Department by virtue of a special DOJ regulation.
“The Special Counsel is funded by the Independent Counsel appropriation, a permanent indefinite appropriation established in the Department’s 1988 Appropriations Act,” said a spokesperson for the DOJ.
As such, funding has already been set aside to cover the expenses of the Mueller investigation through the end of the fiscal year in September.
Reuters further noted that, should Mueller require funding to continue his probe into the next fiscal year beginning on Oct. 1, he would need to submit a request no later than 90 days prior to that date, meaning by the end of June.
Placeholder request for next year
While that may ultimately prove unnecessary, Bloomberg reported that Trump’s proposed 2020 budget did seem to include something of a “placeholder” request in the Justice Department’s budget of around $10 million, ostensibly for the special counsel investigation, though an actual request could be more or less than that placeholder amount.
The $10 million would seemingly be in line with what the probe has cost annually thus far, with reports indicating that the Mueller investigation cost taxpayers roughly $9.1 million in fiscal year 2018.
It remains uncertain how much the probe has cost so far in 2019, as figures for this fiscal year won’t be released until after it has concluded.
Altogether, the investigation that began in May 2017 is estimated to have cost around $25 million in taxpayer funds, albeit some of those expenses were paid by departments and agencies working in cooperation with the investigation, rather than by the special counsel itself.
It remains to be seen if Mueller truly is on the verge of submitting a final report to Attorney General William Barr, but should the special counsel need more time to conclude its work, there is funding set aside for it to continue operating through the end of September at the very least.