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 March 13, 2024

Justice Department projects decrease in budget that could harm Smith case against Trump

In President Joe Biden's budget proposal to Congress, the Justice Department has projected a significant decrease in anticipated spending for special counsels in the next fiscal year.

According to the proposal, special counsels are estimated to require $4 million, contrasting sharply with the $29 million expected to be spent in the current fiscal year.

The forecast

This forecast comes amidst the handling of high-profile criminal cases involving former President Donald Trump and Hunter Biden.

The reduced estimate arrives amid uncertainty surrounding ongoing cases overseen by special counsel Jack Smith, particularly those involving Trump.

One case revolves around allegations that Trump unlawfully possessed classified information at his Mar-a-Lago estate, with a scheduled trial date of May 20. Due to pretrial litigation and unresolved issues, such as Trump's claim of immunity, trial postponements are probable.

The 2020 election case

Another case against Trump, focusing on his alleged involvement in overturning the 2020 election results, also faces uncertainties regarding timing and proceedings pending a Supreme Court decision.

In tandem, special counsel David Weiss is preparing for trials in two criminal cases against Hunter Biden, the son of President Biden.

These cases, one in Delaware concerning gun-related offenses and another in Los Angeles regarding alleged tax evasion, have varying trial dates, with one set for June 20 and the other pending.

The motivations

The decrease in projected spending is attributed to the conclusion of investigations led by two special counsels, John Durham, and Robert Hur, during Biden's tenure.

Durham's inquiry into alleged misconduct related to the Russia probe resulted in limited outcomes, while Hur's review of claims against President Biden concluded without criminal charges.

Despite the decline in projected spending, ongoing legal challenges and potential trial delays suggest that some work will carry over into the next fiscal year. Financial reports reveal that investigations incur both direct expenses, charged to the prosecutor's budget, and indirect expenses, borne by federal agencies for personnel and other costs.

Funding for special counsels originates from a congressional appropriation established when independent counsels were authorized under a now-expired law. The Government Accountability Office affirmed in 2004 that the appropriation remains available for special counsels appointed under DOJ regulations.

While the projected spending decline reflects the conclusion of certain investigations, the complexities of ongoing cases indicate continued financial and operational challenges for Smith and his cases against Trump in the days ahead as the 2024 election ramps up.

Written By:
Dillon Burroughs

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