A report published by CBS News on Saturday read like one of Donald Trump’s favorite talking points against Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. “Mueller’s Russia probe has cost more than $25 million,” its headline announced. Reports in Politico and Reuters made the same claim.
But the stories omitted a key detail: thanks to fines and asset forfeitures, the investigation has netted more than that total.
For months, Trump has groused on an almost daily basis that Mueller’s investigation into the Vladimir Putin regime’s efforts to help his 2016 campaign is an expensive “witch hunt.” He has recently claimed, without evidence, that the investigation had cost $30 million (on November 27) and $40 million (two days later). His Justice Department released documents on Friday showing the actual amount spent to be a little more than $25 million.
But even that total does not show the entire picture. As Mueller’s probe has netted multiple guilty pleas and convictions of prominent Trump campaign figures, it has also collected millions of dollars in fines and assets. Most notably, the September plea agreement between Mueller’s team and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort included a forfeiture of somewhere between $42 million and $46 million in cash, insurance policies, and real estate. The real estate alone was worth an estimated $22 million, which will be auctioned off for the United States Treasury.
Given that the national debt has seen a increase over more than a trillion dollars under Trump in Fiscal Year 2018 alone, the Mueller investigation is one of the rare parts of his administration operating at a surplus.