JON ELSWICK/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Investigative reporter Paul Sperry has a piece at Real Clear Investigations (republished by The Federalist) Thursday that makes the case part of the $700,000+ Special Counsel Robert Mueller spent on outside contractors hired to investigate information that would eventually become part of the Mueller report may have gone to none other than the authors of the Steele dossier, Christopher Steele and Fusion GPS.

Citing (but not quoting) comments made by Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, who sits on the House Intelligence Committee, and members of Washington, DC-based watchdog group Judicial Watch, Sperry lays out why congressional investigators and others are concerned Mueller may have hired Fusion and Steele to help research and compile his report.

Steele’s 17-memo dossier alleged that the Trump campaign was involved in “a well-developed conspiracy of cooperation” with the Russian government to rig the 2016 presidential election in Trump’s favor. It claimed this conspiracy “was managed on the Trump side by Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort, who was using foreign policy adviser Carter Page and others as intermediaries.”

Expenditure statements show that the Special Counsel’s Office outsourced “investigative reports” and “information” to third-party contractors during Mueller’s investigation into alleged Russian “collusion” during the 2016 presidential election. Over the past few months, Mueller’s office has rejected several formal requests from RealClearInvestigations for contract details, including who was hired and how much they were paid.

Washington-based Judicial Watch suspects Mueller’s office may have farmed out work to the private Washington research firm Fusion GPS or its subcontractor Steele, both of whom were paid by the Clinton camp during the 2016 presidential election. Several law enforcement and Hill sources who spoke with RCI also believe Steele and Fusion GPS were deputized in the investigation.

The government watchdog group has requested that the Justice Department turn over the contracting records, along with all budget requests Mueller submitted to the attorney general during his nearly two-year investigation. It’s also requested all communications between the Special Counsel’s Office and the private contractors it used. A Judicial Watch spokesman said its Freedom of Information Act request is pending.

Sperry says Nunes personally had concerns that the final report, despite finding no evidence of collusion, “put a collusion gloss on events.” Sperry also notes that interested partied noticed that general allegations covered in the dossier show up in Mueller’s final report. “And taking a page from earlier surveillance-warrant applications in the Russia investigation, it cites as supporting evidence several articles—including one by Yahoo! News—that used Steele and Fusion as sources,” Sperry writes.

Republican critics on the Hill say Mueller’s written narrative was slanted to give the impression there still might be something to the dossier’s most salacious allegations, even though Mueller found no evidence corroborating them or establishing that Trump or his campaign coordinated or cooperated with Russian meddling in the election.

Democrats demanding Mueller testify before Congress may be on to something. If he was employing the very people involved in the collusion hoax to compile a report investigating whether it was in fact a hoax or not, he might have some explaining to do.