Robert Mueller gets off to fast start as special counsel in Russia probe

The Wall Street Journal reports: Robert Mueller quickly got to work as special counsel overseeing the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election: building a team, designing a budget and forcing the Federal Bureau of Investigation to withhold from Congress documents he may be interested in—all in his first full week on the job.

The appointment of Mr. Mueller suggests the investigation is in the early stages, and it could take years to conclude. Clashes between the special prosecutor investigation and parallel inquiries by Congress are likely just beginning.

The FBI told Congress on Thursday that it would withhold for now memos written by former FBI director James Comey about his interactions with President Donald Trump, as it evaluates whether it can turn them over in light of Mr. Mueller’s appointment.

The chairman of the House Oversight Committee, which had requested the memos, responded by renewing his request for all of Mr. Comey’s notes on meetings with the White House and senior Justice Department leaders, though he extended his deadline until June 8.

“I am seeking to better understand Comey’s communications with the White House and Attorney General in such a way that does not implicate the Special Counsel’s work,” Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R., Utah) wrote in his request.

Under regulations that govern a special counsel appointment, Mr. Mueller has 60 days from his appointment to develop a proposed budget, to be approved by Mr. Rosenstein. His office is working on that task, according to Justice Department officials.

“We work with them on their expected estimates…and that’s all under way,“ the Justice Department’s top official responsible for its budget, Lee Lofthus, said at a budget briefing with reporters May 23.

Special counsels like Mr. Mueller aren’t funded from the regular Justice Department budget, but through a separate Treasury account known as permanent indefinite appropriations, which don’t require a specific budget request to Congress.

“The reason they call it permanent indefinite, is that they make sure that it’s funded with what is needed,” Mr. Lofthus said. “It’s not like it’s got a ceiling and it runs out of money. If you need the money for the job that needs to be done, they make sure the job gets done.” [Continue reading…]

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