The Government Shutdown Is Not Shutting Down Robert Mueller's Russia Probe

A couple of thorns in the side of President Donald Trump are still up and operating.

WASHINGTON ― The federal government is currently shut down, but a couple of thorns in the side of President Donald Trump are still up and operating.

Congress was unable to pass a spending bill late Friday night, shutting down everything but what is considered the “essential” parts of the federal government. Social Security checks are still being processed, the military is still working (although troops won’t get paid until afterward) and air traffic controllers are still helping keep the skies clear.

Meanwhile, much of the work of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will stop ― right at the height of the flu season ― and about 800,000 federal employees will be furloughed until Congress resolves the issue.

And one thing that is still going: Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

The Justice Department confirmed this week that employees in Mueller’s office are exempt from the shutdown and can continue their work. His office is not funded through the regular congressional appropriations process.

So the probe, which Trump desperately wants shut down, is going on even as other government functions cease.

Similarly, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau ― one of conservatives’ least favorite agencies ― continues operations during a shutdown. The agency gets its money from the Federal Reserve, not Congress, even though many Republicans have argued it should, so that they can exert more control over the agency.

For years, Republicans have tried to block the CFPB, which was first proposed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) when she was still in academia. Rich Cordray, who served as CFPB chair under President Barack Obama, recently stepped down to run for governor in Ohio. Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney is the interim head.

As a congressman, Mulvaney called the bureau a “joke ... in a sad, sick kind of way.” And in his most recent budget request, Mulvaney asked for zero dollars for the agency, making clear where the Trump administration stands on the bureau set up to protect consumers.

But nevertheless, the agency will persist during the shutdown.