The Mueller investigation could cost up to $35 million once all the expense reports are in
- The special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation could cost up to $35 million.
- The final expense report is not yet available, but we know from the three reports from the special counsel's office that the investigation cost roughly $25 million from May 2017 to September 2018.
- Critics of the investigation say it's been too costly, while proponents say the assets it's seized outweigh its total cost.
The special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation could cost up to $35 million once all the expenses are tallied.
Mueller submitted his report on his investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 US election to Attorney General William Barr on Friday, signaling the end of the special counsel's direct role in it. Barr has since delivered his summary of the report to Congress.
Barr said Mueller found no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government and that while the special counsel did not find President Donald Trump guilty of obstruction of justice or any other crime, the report still "does not exonerate him."
On Sunday, Trump described the investigation as an "illegal takedown that failed."
The president's allies are now full steam ahead with criticism of the investigation, particularly its financial cost.
"This is a two-year waste of taxpayer time and dollars. They spent over $25 million on this just to find out that there was nothing there," the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said on the "Today" show on Monday. "This should never happen to another president, and we want to make sure that the institution of the president is protected."
Mueller's office spent $12,287,852 from May 2017, when he was appointed, to September 2018, according to its three expense reports.
The latest report showed a total of $4,567,533 spent from April 1 to September 30. About $2.9 million of that was spent on salary and benefits, $942,787 on rent, communications, and utilities, and $15,618 on printing and reproduction, among other expenditures.
Though not legally required to do so, the special counsel also reported on "component expenses," or the amount of money the Department of Justice spent in support of the investigation. The latest report listed this at about $3.9 million.
From May 2017 to September 2018, component expenses came out to $12,928,000, according to the three expense reports.
So including direct spending and component expenses, Mueller's investigation cost about $25 million up to September 2018.
We're still waiting on the final report for the last six months of the investigation, but based on the total costs outlined in the first three reports — $6.8 million, $10 million, and $8.5 million — the entire investigation could cost somewhere between $32 million and $35 million.
Mueller's investigation has also seized millions in assets.
In a plea deal with the special counsel last September, Paul Manafort, who was Trump's campaign chairman in 2016, agreed to forfeit assets estimated to be worth at least $42 million.
Proponents of Mueller's investigation have said these seized assets mean it has virtually paid for itself.
But the Justice Department told NBC News that the seized assets would not go directly toward funding the investigation.
The total cost of Mueller's investigation so far, as well as the estimated final cost, is far lower than past investigations that were also divisive. The Whitewater investigation into President Bill Clinton's real-estate ventures lasted a little over seven years and cost about $70 million, or roughly $107 million when adjusted for inflation.
Going all the way back to President Jimmy Carter, there have been 21 completed independent counsel and special counsel investigations into presidential administrations, with a total adjusted cost of $339 million, according to Politico.
Of those 21 investigations, 12 did not result in any indictments, Politico said.
Mueller's team charged six Americans once affiliated with Trump's campaign or administration, 13 Russian nationals, 12 Russian intelligence officers, three Russian companies, and three other people.