Putting the $17 Million Price Tag of the Mueller Investigation in Context

Putting the $17 Million Price Tag of the Mueller Investigation in Context


Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election (and related matters) cost the government more than $16.7 million over its first 10.5 months, according to figures released by the Justice Department on Thursday.

The investigation has cost nearly $10 million from October through March, including about $4.5 million that went toward salaries, rent, travel and equipment. The DOJ said that about $5.5 million of the cost from October through March was spent by investigators who do not report to Mueller and those expenditures would have been spent on the investigation irrespective of the special counsel’s appointment.

President Trump referred to the total cost in a Friday morning tweet that seemed to inflate the total slightly, and once again labeled the probe a hoax. Trump also brought up the cost of the investigation in a May 20 tweet that asked, “At what point does this soon to be $20,000,000 Witch Hunt, composed of 13 Angry and Heavily Conflicted Democrats and two people who have worked for Obama for 8 years, STOP!”

Some context:

  • “The cost is not necessarily out of line with prior special investigations, and the documents note that Mueller is reporting what his work has caused other Justice Department components to spend — which previous special counsels have not,” The Washington Post says. 
  • The Whitewater and Monica Lewinsky investigation of President Bill Clinton cost more than $52 million over half a decade. More than $40 million was spent on other Clinton-era independent counsel investigations. The Reagan-era Iran-Contra investigation cost more than $47 million over eight years. And those figures are not adjusted for inflation.
  • “The federal government is expected to spend about $4.1 trillion in fiscal 2018,” writes The Washington Post’s Philip Bump. “To put it into more tangible terms, spending $16.7 million of $4.1 trillion is like making $50,000 a year and spending 20 cents.” Bump calculates that President Trump has spent more taxpayer money on trips to his Mar-a-Lago home in Florida than Mueller has spent investigating his campaign activities.