Instead of winding down his investigation into Russian interference/collusion in the US 2016 election, Robert Mueller is requisitioning additional Department of Justice resources in the latest sign that the probe continues to expand nearly 14 months after Mueller was appointed special counsel. According to Bloomberg, in a sign that Mueller is preparing to hand off more of his investigation to other federal prosecutors – like he did with the investigation into Michael Cohen (which he “delegated” to the southern district of New York) – the DOJ is now spending more on supplemental work for Mueller than it is spending on the special counsel’s own staff.
According to his most recent statement of expenditures, more money is being spent on work done by permanent Department of Justice units than on Mueller’s own dedicated operation. The DOJ units spent $9 million from the investigation’s start in May 2017 through March of this year, compared with $7.7 million spent by Mueller’s team.
Mueller is also increasingly depending on investigators in different areas, including New York, Alexandria, Va. and Pittsburg, Penn. in yet another sign that another handoff could be imminent.
Investigators in New York; Alexandria, Virginia; Pittsburgh and elsewhere have been tapped to supplement the work of Mueller’s team, the officials said. Mueller has already handed off one major investigation – into Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen – to the Southern District of New York.
In an attempt to “normalize” Mueller’s behavior, DOJ officials told Bloomberg that this type of “expansion” was to be expected: “A heavy investigative load” had been anticipated from the start. Plus, they said, Mueller is showing results (though it appears he’s done just enough to justify continuing with the probe).
“I don’t think he’s getting in over his head,” said Solomon Wisenberg, who served as deputy independent counsel investigating President Bill Clinton in the 1990s. “These things have a tendency to balloon. Yes, it may be taxing on them. No, it’s not that unusual.”
Nor is it unusual for Mueller to turn to U.S. attorneys or to Justice Department headquarters, said Wisenberg, who’s now a partner at the law firm Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP.
Mueller’s team will likely be particularly busy in the coming months as he wraps up his negotiations with President Trump’s team and gears up for the trial of Paul Manafort – which is set to begin later this month.
“It’s going to be all hands on deck when they go to the Manafort trial,” Wisenberg said.
Earlier this year, the Internet Research Agency opened another front in Mueller’s war by engaging him in a legal battle in federal court as they’ve sought to expose what Mueller has argued are “sensitive investigative materials”. Another court fight started last week when Andrew Miller, a former aide to Roger Stone, filed a sealed motion to fight one of Mueller’s grand jury subpoenas.
Mueller is also expected to soon begin the sentencing phase of his prosecution of Michael Flynn and George Papadopoulos, both of whom pleaded guilty to lying to investigators, and have offered to cooperate. With so much going on, some experts have quietly urged Mueller to think about cutting back.
“He’s a busy guy,” said Jeffrey Cramer, a former federal prosecutor.
“There’s certainly multiple fronts going on right now,” said Cramer, who’s now managing director of the international investigation firm Berkeley Research Group LLC. “Some of them are more active than others.”
Cramer doesn’t think Mueller’s in over his head but says he might be taking timing into consideration when it comes to making additional moves.
“You don’t have unlimited resources in a sense that you’ve got an unlimited cadre of prosecutors and agents,” Cramer said. “There does come a time where they can only do so much.”
With all this in mind, it certainly doesn’t sound like Mueller is respecting Rep. Trey Gowdy’s admonition – delivered to Mueller’s ostensible boss, Rod Rosenstein – to “finish it the hell up.” At this point, it seems like even Trump agreeing to sit for an interview – something that Mueller has long said would be the capstone to his investigation – would be enough to entice Mueller to wind down his wide-reaching investigation which, in case you forgot, has moved far beyond its initial mandate to investigate “Russian interference.”