Fact Check: Trump Appears to Again Exaggerate Cost of Mueller Probe

Special counsel’s costs would have had to more than double in six months

Then-FBI Director Robert Mueller, right, arrives on Capitol Hill to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee. President Trump slammed the special prosecutor anew on Thursday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

ANALYSIS | Something about Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation struck a nerve with Donald Trump Thursday morning, but the president appeared to exaggerate the cost of the probe.

The president has been inflating numbers for years, before and after he became the primary occupant at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

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For instance, Trump Tower is officially listed as standing 68 floors high — it’s actually 58. And he infamously contended his inauguration crowd was among the largest in history; former White House press secretary Sean Spicer has since said he erred in angrily — and falsely — insisting it was. More recently, the president has contended tens of thousands of people were outside rally venues when those crowds were merely in the hundreds or around 1,000.

Before 7 a.m. Thursday, Trump appeared to be watching cable news reports on the latest drips of information out of Mueller’s camp and those of Trump and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

“Did you ever see an investigation more in search of a crime?” he wrote in a first tweet that also questioned why the former FBI director is not also investigation 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton over her use of a private email server while she was secretary of state. Then he returned to trying to discredit the entire investigation.

He dubbed it an “illegal Joseph McCarthy style Witch Hunt” and called it “So Ridiculous!”

Trump also criticized the investigation for “wasting more than $40,000,000.”

Only budget documents and independent fact-checking organizations show the apparent cost of Mueller’s work is less than Trump’s alleged price tag, for which he did not provide supporting data.

Justice Department documents released in late May show the probe cost $16.7 million over its first 10½ months. Trump’s estimate would mean the Mueller team’s costs would have had to more than double over the last six months.

PolitiFact, a Pulitzer Prize-winning independent fact-checking organization, found that the special counsel’s office was allocated $10.4 million in fiscal 2018 and is set to have the same amount to spend in the current fiscal year, which began Oct. 1.

The organization also noticed a footnote in the Justice Department documents that show the Mueller office also “incurred $3.5 million in indirect costs.”

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That would bring the total to $20.2 million. The special counsel’s office has taken on new costs since May, but it has yet to disclose those figures.

“Officially, it’s not costing that much,” PolitiFact wrote of Trump’s inflated $20 million cost claim in May. “We rate the statement Half True.”

All indications are a similar rating should be applied to the $40 million claim.

After all, the Washington Post’s full time Fact Checker staff earlier this month updated its database of his false or misleading claims. As of OCt. 30, his 649th day in office, the president had uttered 6,420 such claims.

The White House did not respond to a request for data supporting the president’s claim.

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