Justice Department Budget Provides Another Year For Mueller Probe
Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation is supposedly wrapping up soon. In fact, it was supposed to wrap up by mid-February; now we’re entering mid-March. But according to at least one report, it could be coming to a climax this week.
Or maybe not. No one really seems to know what’s going on inside the Mueller probe. And a new report from Bloomberg Monday night revealed that the Justice Department is at least prepared for the possibility that the investigation will continue on for a while longer:
The Trump administration has set aside $10 million for Special Counsel Robert Mueller during the next fiscal year, although the funding won’t be necessary if the Russia investigation ends before then.
The funding is essentially a placeholder in the Justice Department’s budget request for fiscal 2020, a Justice Department official said. Mueller is believed to be wrapping up his investigation. In the unlikely event he needs money in the next fiscal year, however, he’ll have to put forward his own budget request this summer.
This isn’t a guarantee of anything, and Bloomberg notes that an official said the $10 million isn’t necessarily what Mueller would need — but just an estimate. It’s also around the amount his team spent in 2018.
The next fiscal year begins in October 2019, so this provision appears to indicate that the investigation may continue for many more months. It’s nevertheless possible that the request is a mere formality or some kind of oversight, and that Mueller could close up shop tomorrow and not spend another cent.
But in the last month, observers of the investigation increasingly came to a consensus that the investigation was in its final phase. Most of this was based on reporting that appeared to be coming from the Justice Department, but almost certainly not from Mueller’s team itself. So it’s far from clear how accurate the predictions of the investigations’ close were.
And as many have pointed out, Mueller seems to have at least two outstanding legal battles — one with a mysterious foreign company and another with a subpoenaed Roger Stone aide — that indicate he still has overt steps in the investigation left to take. And that doesn’t include all the reported aspects of the investigation, such as Erik Prince’s meeting in Seychelles and Donald Trump Jr.’s Trump Tower meeting, that have yet to play a part in any indictments yet but conceivably could.
The fundamental point, of course, is that none one but Mueller’s team, the attorney general, and the deputy attorney general, are likely to be sure what the special counsel’s plans are. The provision for continued funding in the budget is just another clue about its possible duration. But ultimately, we won’t know until we know.