Special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s office is now operating from an office in Washington, beginning its work of probing the impact of Russian influence on the 2016 presidential election, Justice Department officials said Tuesday.
“The special counsel’s office is up and running now,” Assistant Attorney General for Administration Lee Lofthus told reporters at an annual briefing on the Justice Department’s budget. “What its total staff size is going to be is something that I’m not aware of. I just don’t know yet and that’s in the hands of the special counsel, not here.”
A Justice Department spokeswoman said earlier Tuesday that Mueller and his team are working out of a privately-owned office building in downtown Washington. The building also houses offices for other Justice Department units.
Mueller has 60 days to propose a budget for this fiscal year and a deadline at the beginning of July to propose a budget for the next fiscal year, according to the regulations used to create his position.
“The office of Special Counsel budget is not something that’s part of the FY18 budget,” Lofthus said in response to questions from POLITICO. “It’s something that obviously needs to be done now because the special counsel is being stood up now.”
Lofthus said the special counsel will be funded via a “permanent and indefinite appropriation” at the Treasury Department that is separate from other Justice Department accounts.
“There’s an appropriation and we’re going to make sure the special counsel is funded and it’s out of that appropriation,” Lofthus said. “We work with them on their expected estimates. … That’s all underway.”
The man who appointed Mueller to the post last week, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, opened the budget briefing with a statement, but declined to take questions from reporters. He said he had to go to another meeting.
At the outset of the session, Rosenstein joked about how he’s suddenly found himself in the spotlight after more than two decades at the Justice Department.
With everyone present seemed well aware of his role, he identified himself as the deputy attorney general, before quipping: “It’s a low-profile middle management job.”