Former FBI Director Robert S. Mueller started as special counsel to oversee the bureau’s investigation of alleged Russian efforts to impact the 2016 presidential election, but the cost of his work won’t be part of the regular appropriations process.
The funds for Mueller and his team come from a Treasury Department account for permanent, indefinite appropriations, said Lee Lofthus, the assistant attorney general for administration and a budget expert at the Justice Department.
“Basically, it doesn’t require us to go up to the Hill with a budget request like this,” Lofthus said during a briefing Tuesday with reporters on President Donald Trump’s fiscal 2018 budget request. “It is an appropriation available if you have something like a special counsel to make sure the thing gets funded.”
Mueller is in control of the total staff size he will need to conduct the investigation, but he is required to put together an operational budget overseen by Justice officials, Lofthus said.
“They’re working on it,” Lofthus said.
A previous special counsel investigation — Patrick Fitzgerald’s 45-month investigation into the leaking of CIA agent Valerie Plame’s identity that led to the conviction of Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff — cost $2.6 million, according to media reports from 2008.
Mueller’s operational budget ultimately would need the approval of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who named the former FBI director as special counsel last week in a probe over possible connections between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.
“We’re going to make sure the special counsel gets the funding he needs out of that appropriation,” Lofthus said. “But I don’t have the insight, nor should I, about what the ultimate composition will be.”