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‘Low energy’: Durham probe cost roughly $1.5 million during first six months as special counsel


John Durham spent roughly $1.5 million of taxpayer funds during his first six months as special counsel probing the origin of the FBI’s investigation into Trump-Russia collusion in the 2016 presidential election, The Washington Times has learned.

The amount spent by Mr. Durham is a relatively small amount by Washington standards and less than a quarter of the amount that special counsel Robert S. Mueller spent in the first six months of his probe of links between Mr. Trump and Russian election meddling.

For conservatives who are already disappointed by Mr. Durham’s lack of results after two years on the job, the price tag only confirms suspicions that his investigation is a sham.

Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group, said the costs suggest Mr. Durham is not working to expose corruption by Obama-era officials.

“The budget demonstrates what I think observers have already concluded: the investigation is low energy, and he’s disinterested in getting to the bottom of the worst government corruption scandal in government history,” he said. “Those expenditures are the resting state of an office.”

Conservatives had high hopes the probe would uncover anti-Trump bias at the FBI and Justice Department. But two years passed without a public utterance from Mr. Durham or a sign he has uncovered anything.

The price tag for Mr. Durham’s special counsel probe was detailed in a Justice Department expenditures report that was viewed by The Washington Times. The report covers the period between Oct. 19, 2020 — when he was appointed special counsel — through March 31, 2021.

The report was to be made public on Friday.

It does not include the 16 months between May 2019 and Oct. 18, 2020, when Mr. Durham was working on the probe before being elevated to special counsel.

The filing shows Mr. Durham spent a total of $934,313 over those six months. Of that total, $574,623 was spent on salaries and $13,954 went to travel and communications. Another $136,215 was spent on rent and utilities and $209,305 was spent on contractual services, which included internet services.

The probe incurred another $520,856 in costs to Justice Department components not directly tied to the inquiry.

By comparison, Mr. Mueller’s probe cost more than $6.7 million during its first six months and burned through nearly $32 million of taxpayer funds during its two-year run.

“Mueller was prosecuting,” Mr. Fitton said. “The question that should be asked is why weren’t people brought before a grand jury [in the Durham probe] because that is the expectation Americans have for this type of scandal and those expectations haven’t been met.”

Independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr also spent several million over a few months during his investigations of then-President Bill Clinton.

A 1999 General Accounting Office report, for example, showed that Mr. Starr’s office spent $6.2 million in the last six months of 1998. It’s unclear if that amount included both direct expenditures by the special counsel and supporting agency costs.

The nearly five-year probe led by Mr. Starr and his successor Robert Ray cost more than $52 million in taxpayer funds.

Since the spending during the first two years of Mr. Durham’s probe is not made public, it is impossible to gauge whether the money spent as special counsel is a sign the probe is winding down or ramping up.

Andrew Leipold, a law professor at the University of Illinois, who worked on the Starr probe, said the salary costs suggest Mr. Durham isn’t working with a large staff.

“Nearly half-a-million dollars in personnel costs seems a little light,” he said. “If you just include staff costs like secretaries, office administrators, and an IT staff, you are already eating away that before you include the lawyers.”

He also cautioned that it is difficult to make judgments about the pace of the probe because roughly 16 months of work is missing from the budget.

He also said $13,000 in travel costs at first blush may not seem like a lot of money, but investigative trips may have been scuttled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. “If interviews are being done by Zoom that makes what would be a big cost a little cost,” he said.

Mr. Mueller’s team filed criminal charges against four Trump associates during his first six months, including former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and ex-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

The Durham probe so far has produced a single criminal charge against former FBI attorney Kevin Clinesmith, who admitted to altering an email related to the surveillance of former Trump campaign aide Carter Page.

The case against Clinesmith was brought before Mr. Durham was appointed special counsel so his work could continue through the Biden administration.

Clinesmith was sentenced to 12 months probation and 400 hours of jail time.

Conservatives who expected Mr. Durham would expose a deep state conspiracy against Mr. Trump have become fed up with the investigation’s slow pace.

Earlier this year, Mr. Trump mocked the investigation.

“Where’s Durham?” Mr. Trump said in March. “Is he a living, breathing human being? Will there ever be a Durham report?”

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