Trump special counsel probes cost over $9 million in first five months

Washington — Special counsel Jack Smith’s two investigations of former President Donald Trump cost more than $9 million in the first five months after Smith was tapped in November 2022 by Attorney General Merrick Garland to oversee the Justice Department’s ongoing Trump-related investigations, according to expenditure statements released Friday. 

Smith is investigating efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election and Trump’s alleged mishandling of classified White House records after he left office. When Smith took over, both probes were already in progress, and in June, prosecutors secured an indictment against Trump and his longtime aide — Walt Nauta — for an alleged scheme regarding the retention of national defense information and obstruction of federal investigators.

Trump pleaded not guilty in Florida last month to the 37 counts against him — which include 31 charges of illegally holding onto sensitive government records — and Nauta entered a not-guilty plea on Thursday after weeks of delays. Nauta, Trump’s one-time White House valet, is accused of working with the former president to move and hide boxes of documents with classified markings inside Mar-a-Lago and lying to investigators about his knowledge of the records.

In all, Smith’s two investigations directly cost $5,428,579 in funding from the Justice Department’s permanent indefinite funding for independent counsel probes as prescribed by congressionally authorized statute between Nov. 18, 2022, and March 31, 2023. This included more than $2.6 million for personnel compensation and benefits, according to the disclosure, and approximately $1.8 million for contractual services like litigation and IT support.

Another $3.8 million was spent on FBI and U.S. Marshal Service personnel connected to the two Smith probes for investigative matters and protective details. While not required to disclose such expenses in the reports, they were included in Friday’s statements.

Since his appointment, Smith has spoken publicly just once — after indicting the former president in the Southern District of Florida in June. “Our laws that protect national defense information are critical to the safety and security of the United States and they must be enforced,” Smith said at the time. “We have one set of laws in this country and they apply to everyone.”

The former president has bashed the probe as politically motivated and maintained he did nothing wrong.

Smith’s team of prosecutors is also investigating the events surrounding the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack and efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election. Grand juries are convened in Washington, D.C., to hear evidence, and in recent weeks, investigators have met with numerous witnesses including Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani.

Investigators have examined a number of leads in the matter and are focused on an alleged fake elector scheme in which supporters of the former president worked to overturn the certification of the Electoral College votes via an alternate group of swing-state representatives pledging support to Trump, according to sources familiar with the probe. State officials from Arizona, Nevada, and Georgia have spoken with investigators or complied with subpoenas for records in recent months.

The expense statements were released as part of a biannual submission by the Justice Department to Congress detailing the cost of ongoing special counsel probes to Congress. The disclosure also contained information related to the investigations of special counsel Robert Hur, who was appointed by Garland in January to take over the investigation into President Joe Biden’s retention of classified documents from his time as vice president and senator — and former special counsel John Durham, who earlier this year completed his probe into the origins of the Russia investigation. According to the reports, Hur’s investigation cost more than $1.1 million between Jan. 12, 2023 and March 31, 2023, as did the final stages of Durham’s probe from Oct. 1, 2022 to March 31, 2023.

CBS News first reported that roughly 10 documents marked classified were discovered by Mr. Biden’s personal lawyers at his vice-presidential office at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement on Nov. 2, 2022, and turned over to the National Archives and Records Administration.

Days later, the Archives notified the Justice Department and on Nov. 9, the FBI began an assessment to examine whether classified information had been mishandled in violation of federal law, and a Trump-appointed U.S. attorney was tasked with leading the probe prior to Hur’s appointment.

Subsequent searches of the president’s residence in Wilmington, Delaware, performed by his legal team and later, by the FBI yielded a “small number” of documents in his garage from Mr. Biden’s time in the Obama administration and another six items with classified markings from his time as vice president and as senator, the president’s attorney confirmed at various points earlier this year.

In addition to the FBI’s 13-hour search of the president’s Wilmington home, federal investigators also conducted an hours-long review at his Rehoboth Beach residence, but no additional documents were found, Mr. Biden’s attorney said at the time.

Hur’s ongoing investigation cost $615,962 in expenditures from the congressionally authorized independent counsel fund and another $572,185 in additional costs like FBI and U.S. Marshal support. More than $340,000 were spent on personnel compensation and benefits and about $225,000 were spent on rent, communications, and utilities.

Durham, the Trump-era special counsel tasked with scrutinizing the origins of the FBI’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, concluded his yearslong examination into the federal government’s conduct earlier this year and found investigators “failed to uphold their important mission of strict fidelity to the law” regarding events during the 2016 campaign.

His nearly 300-page report was critical of “confirmation bias” at the FBI and found the basis for opening a full investigation into whether Trump’s campaign was coordinating with Russia in 2016 was “seriously flawed.”

Durham testified about his findings last month and told Congress the use of the so-called Steele dossier — an opposition memo that included unproven accusations compiled by a former British intelligence officer —  to secure investigative warrants was improper.

The four-year Durham investigation yielded charges against three individuals and culminated in one guilty plea and two complete acquittals at trial.

According to the expenditure statement released Friday, between October and March, Durham’s office spent more than $1.1 million, including $544,0444 in personnel compensation and benefits and approximately $96,000 in travel expenses.

In all, since his appointment as special counsel in October 2020, Durham spent approximately $9.5 million in combined independent counsel funds and connected components like the FBI and U.S. Marshals, according to Justice Department expenditure reports.

During his tenure as special counsel investigating Russian election meddling and alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, Robert Mueller spent approximately $30 million, according to expenditure statements. His investigation — which ultimately found no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia — resulted in numerous indictments and convictions at trial and concluded that Russians had conducted a systematic effort to meddle with the 2016 presidential election.

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