President Trump alleged on Saturday that President Obama placed a wiretap in Trump Tower before the election. Although Trump offered no evidence to support this claim, the White House has nonetheless convinced the House Intelligence Committee Chair, California Rep. Devin Nunes, to launch an investigation into the former president. If it sounds absurd, that's because it is, in no small part because Congressional probes cost a lot of taxpayer money to fund. That raises the question: How much would an investigation into Trump's wiretapping claim cost?
There's no way to say with certainty, simply due to the sheer number of things we don't yet know about the forthcoming investigation: How long will it take? How many committees will investigate it? Will it be confined to the House of Representatives, or will the Senate launch its own probe? Will Congress be the only body looking into it, or will executive branch agencies get involved as well?
We have no idea yet, and the answers to some of those questions will depend in part on what the early stages of the investigation turn up. Nevertheless, we can still hazard a very rough ballpark estimate of how much an investigation into Trump's wiretapping accusations will cost, based on the costs of prior congressional investigations — for example, Benghazi.
Congressional Republicans have investigated the Benghazi non-scandal quite extensively: The House committees on Oversight, Foreign Affairs, Judiciary, and Armed Services all launched separate probes into the matter, as did the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and the Senate Homeland Security Committee. In addition, the House established a Select Committee on Benghazi to focus exclusively on, well, Benghazi.
It's impossible to know how much every single one of those committees spent on an individual basis. But House Democrats say that the Select Committee on Benghazi has spent $9.7 million to date looking into the issue. As of 10 months ago — when the investigation was about two years old — the cost hit around $6.7 million, according to The Washington Post. If this is all correct, that would imply the committee spent *roughly* $3.3 million of taxpayer money per year, on average, investigating Benghazi.
Obviously, different investigations require different amounts of resources and time. But if we assume, solely for the sake of argument, that a House investigation into Trump's wiretapping allegations would take around a year (and that seems pretty long), we can estimate that the cost of such a probe would be somewhere in the ballpark of $3.3 million.
17 intel agencies give proof Trump has ties to Putin. @DevinNunes does nothing.— Matthew Chapman (@fawfulfan) March 5, 2017
Trump tweets Obama wiretapped him. Nunes jumps into action.
This is a super, super rough guess that doesn't take into account any number of unknowable factors. It's possible that more committees or agencies would get involved, which would drive up the cost; it's also possible that it would only be a token investigation to appease Trump, which would suggest a lower cost.
One thing is clear, though: However much the investigation costs, it's too much. There's no reason to launch an investigation to begin with, and that's because — once again — there is precisely zero reason to think that Trump's claims are true.