Home U.S. News As Inquiries Compound, Justice System Pours Resources Into Scrutinizing Trump

As Inquiries Compound, Justice System Pours Resources Into Scrutinizing Trump

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As Inquiries Compound, Justice System Pours Resources Into Scrutinizing Trump

Jack Smith, the special counsel overseeing criminal investigations into former President Donald J. Trump, employs 40 to 60 career prosecutors, paralegals and support staff, augmented by a rotating cast of F.B.I. agents and technical specialists, according to people familiar with the situation.

In his first four months on the job, starting in November, Mr. Smith’s investigation incurred expenses of $9.2 million. That included $1.9 million to pay the U.S. Marshals Service to protect Mr. Smith, his family and other investigators who have faced threats after the former president and his allies singled them out on social media.

At this rate, the special counsel is on track to spend about $25 million a year.

The main driver of all these efforts and their concurrent expenses is Mr. Trump’s own behavior — his unwillingness to accept the results of an election as every one of his predecessors has done, his refusal to heed his own lawyers’ advice and a grand jury’s order to return government documents and his lashing out at prosecutors in personal terms.

Even the $25 million figure only begins to capture the full scale of the resources dedicated by federal, state and local officials to address Mr. Trump’s behavior before, during and after his presidency. While no comprehensive statistics are available, Justice Department officials have long said that the effort alone to prosecute the members of the pro-Trump mob who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, is the largest investigation in its history. That line of inquiry is only one of many criminal and civil efforts being brought to hold Mr. Trump and his allies to account.

As the department and prosecutors in New York and Georgia move to charge Mr. Trump, the current Republican presidential front-runner, the scope of their work, in terms of quantifiable costs, is gradually becoming clear.

These efforts, taken as a whole, do not appear to be siphoning resources that would otherwise be used to combat crime or undertake other investigations. But the agencies are paying what one official called a “Trump tax” — forcing leaders to expend disproportionate time and energy on the former president, and defending themselves against his unfounded claims that they are persecuting him at the expense of public safety.

In a political environment growing more polarized as the 2024 presidential race takes shape, Republicans have made the scale of the federal investigation of Mr. Trump and his associates an issue in itself. Earlier this month, Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee grilled the F.B.I. director, Christopher A. Wray, on the scale of the investigations, and suggested they might block the reauthorization of a warrantless surveillance program used to investigate several people suspected of involvement in the Jan. 6 breach or oppose funding for the bureau’s new headquarters.

“What Jack Smith is doing is actually pretty cheap considering the momentous nature of the charges,” said Timothy J. Heaphy, former U.S. attorney who served as lead investigator for the House committee that investigated the Capitol assault.

The “greater cost” is likely to be the damage inflicted by relentless attacks on the department, which could be “incalculable,” he added.

At the peak of the Justice Department’s efforts to hunt down and charge the Jan. 6 rioters, many U.S. attorney’s offices and all 56 F.B.I. field offices had officials pursuing leads. At one point, more than 600 agents and support personnel from the bureau were assigned to the riot cases, officials said.

In Fulton County, Ga., the district attorney, Fani T. Willis, a Democrat, has spent about two years conducting a wide-ranging investigation into election interference. The office has assigned about 10 of its 370 employees to the elections case, including prosecutors, investigators and legal assistants, according to officials.

The authorities in Michigan and Arizona are scrutinizing Republicans who sought to pass themselves off as Electoral College electors in states won by Joseph R. Biden Jr. in 2020.

For all their complexity and historical importance, the Trump-related prosecutions have not significantly constrained the ability of prosecutors to carry out their regular duties or forced them to abandon other types of cases, officials in all of those jurisdictions have repeatedly said.

In Manhattan, where Mr. Trump is facing 34 counts of falsifying business records in connection with his alleged attempts to suppress reports of an affair with a pornographic actress, the number of assistant district attorneys assigned to the case is in the single digits, according to officials.

That has not stopped Mr. Trump from accusing the district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, a Democrat, of diverting resources that might have gone to fight street crime. In fact, the division responsible for bringing the case was the financial crimes unit, and the office has about 500 other prosecutors who have no part in the investigation.

“Rather than stopping the unprecedented crime wave taking over New York City, he’s doing Joe Biden’s dirty work, ignoring the murders and burglaries and assaults he should be focused on,” Mr. Trump wrote on the day in March that he was indicted. “This is how Bragg spends his time!”

Mr. Trump pursued a similar line of attack against the New York attorney general, Letitia James, who sued the former president and his family business and accused them of fraud. (Local prosecutors, not the state, are responsible for bringing charges against most violent criminals.)

The Justice Department, which includes the F.B.I. and the U.S. Marshals, is a sprawling organization with an annual budget of around $40 billion, and it has more than enough staff to absorb the diversion of key prosecutors, including the chief of its counterintelligence division, Jay Bratt, to the special counsel’s investigations, officials said.

A vast majority of Mr. Smith’s staff members were already assigned to those cases before he was appointed, simply moving their offices across town to work under him. Department officials have emphasized that about half of the special counsel’s expenses would have been paid out, in the form of staff salaries, had the department never investigated Mr. Trump.

That is not to say the department has not been under enormous pressure in the aftermath of the 2020 election and attack on the Capitol.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Washington, which has brought more than 1,000 cases against Jan. 6 rioters, initially struggled to manage the mountain of evidence, including thousands of hours of video, tens of thousands of tips from private citizens and hundreds of thousands of pages of investigative documents. But the office created an internal information management system, at a cost of millions of dollars, to organize one of the largest collections of discovery evidence ever gathered by federal investigators.

Prosecutors from U.S. attorney’s offices across the country have been called in to assist their colleagues in Washington. Federal defenders’ offices in other cities have also pitched in, helping the overwhelmed Washington office to represent defendants charged in connection with Jan. 6.

“If you combine the Trump investigation with the Jan. 6 prosecutions, you can say it really has had an impact on the internal machinations of the department,” said Anthony D. Coley, who served as the chief spokesman for Attorney General Merrick B. Garland until earlier this year. “It didn’t impede the department’s capacity to conduct its business, but you definitely had a situation where prosecutors were rushed in from around the country to help out.”

While the Washington field office of the F.B.I. is in charge of the investigation of the Capitol attack, defendants have been arrested in all 50 states. Putting together those cases and taking suspects into custody has required the help of countless agents in field offices across the country.

The bureau has not publicly disclosed the number of agents specifically assigned to the investigations into Mr. Trump, but people familiar with the situation have said the number is substantial but comparatively much smaller. They include agents who oversaw the search of the former president’s Mar-a-Lago estate and worked on various aspects of the Jan. 6 case; and bureau lawyers who often play a critical, under-the-radar role in investigations.

A substantial percentage of those working on both cases are F.B.I. agents. In a letter to House Republicans in June, Carlos Uriarte, the department’s legislative affairs director, disclosed that Mr. Smith employed around 26 special agents, with additional agents being brought on from “time to time” for specific tasks related to the investigations.

In terms of expense, Mr. Smith’s work greatly exceeds that of the other special counsel appointed by Mr. Garland, Robert K. Hur, who is investigating President Biden’s handling of classified documents after he left the vice presidency. Mr. Hur has spent about $1.2 million from his appointment in January through March, on pace for $5.6 million in annual expenditures.

An analysis of salary data in the report suggests Mr. Hur is operating with a considerably smaller staff than Mr. Smith, perhaps 10 to 20 people, some newly hired, others transferred from the U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago, which initiated the investigation.

For now, the two cases do not appear to be comparable in scope or seriousness. Unlike Mr. Trump, Mr. Biden returned all the government documents in his possession shortly after finding them, and Mr. Hur’s staff is not tasked with any other lines of inquiry.

A more apt comparison is to the nearly two-year investigation by the special counsel Robert S. Mueller into the 2016 Trump campaign’s connections to Russia, which resulted in a decision not to indict Mr. Trump.

The semiannual reports filed by Mr. Mueller’s office are roughly in line, if somewhat less, than Mr. Smith’s first report, tallying about $8.5 million in expenses.

Jonah E. Bromwich contributed reporting from New York, and Danny Hakim from Atlanta.

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