There has been quite a bit of speculation in recent weeks that the Robert Mueller-led special counsel investigation is on the verge of wrapping up and that a final summary report may be submitted within the next few days or weeks.
Those rumors were tempered somewhat by a report from Reuters on Monday, however, as it was revealed that Mueller’s probe has funding to continue operations through the end of the fiscal year in September, if need be.
Special counsel funded through end of fiscal year
The question of funding for Mueller’s team arose after it was noticed that there was no mention of the investigation in the Justice Department’s portion of the proposed 2020 budget put forward by President Donald Trump’s White House on Monday.
As it turns out, funding for the special counsel investigation is derived from specific regulations issued by the U.S. Treasury Department, according to three unnamed U.S. officials cited by the media outlet.
“The Special Counsel is funded by the Independent Counsel appropriation, a permanent indefinite appropriation established in the Department’s 1988 Appropriations Act,” explained an unnamed Justice Department spokesperson.
Request for further funding by June
Soon after Attorney General William Barr began settling into his new role, rumors increasingly started circulating that Mueller was nearly finished with the probe into alleged Russian interference and collusion with the Trump campaign in the 2016 election.
That investigation began in May 2017, and while it has drawn significant support from many members of Congress — specifically Democrats and some establishment Republicans — it has also been the subject of intense criticism from some Republicans in Congress, and especially from the Trump White House, which regularly refers to the probe as a “witch hunt.”
According to Justice Department documentation, the Mueller investigation cost taxpayers approximately $9 million during the fiscal year of 2018, which ran from Oct. 2017 through the end of Sept. 2018. The total cost to taxpayers since the end of that period remains unclear.
Were the special counsel investigation to continue on past the end of the current fiscal year in Sept. 2019, Mueller would need to file a request for more funding by the end of June, as requests must be filed no later than 90 days prior to the start of a new fiscal year.
End may or may not be near
Reuters noted that, despite all of the rumors swirling about the impending conclusion of the Mueller investigation, none of the Congressional committees that are also investigating President Trump or related matters have claimed or acknowledged receipt of any sort of guidance from Mueller as to his progress or intentions going forward.
This report about the special counsel investigation having the necessary funding to continue operating through the end of this fiscal year could be an indication that the investigation isn’t as close to a conclusion as some have surmised.
That said, given the manner in which the government typically funds various programs through the course of each fiscal year, the fact that Mueller has funding for several more months could simply be a precautionary measure that has no real bearing on when his work will ultimately be complete.