The banquet hall at the Country Club of Jackson was full last week to hear writer Andy McCarthy speak at a function hosted by the Mississippi Center for Public Policy.

McCarthy is a columnist for the National Review and has recently published a book, “Ball of Collusion: The Plot to Rig an Election and Destroy a Presidency.” McCarthy’s book expounds on a vexing issue that won’t go away: The real collusion in the 2016 election was not between the Donald Trump campaign and the Kremlin. It was between the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Obama administration and their manipulation of the FBI to sabotage Trump.

We are talking about the notorious Steele file, a dossier of damning material alleging that Trump colluded with Russians. The dossier was compiled by Christopher Steele, a retired British agent who specialized in Russian affairs. Steele gave his file to the FBI, which used the information to obtain approval from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to spy on former Trump campaign associate Carter Page. Turns out, Steele compiled the dossier while working for Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm hired by Hillary Clinton’s campaign through an international law firm based in Seattle. Steele’s Democratic funding was never revealed to the court.

This is heady stuff. The FBI being snookered, at best, or colluding, at worst, with Democratic campaign operatives to spy on a Republican presidential candidate. In December, Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz exonerated the FBI from allegations of abuse of power and political bias against the Trump campaign during its initial investigation of the Trump-Russia connection, while at the same time criticizing some FBI agents and lawyers for unprofessionalism and sloppiness. U.S. Attorney General William Barr is calling on continued investigations. In an 11-page response, the FBI director, Christopher A. Wray, said he was ordering 40 corrective steps to address the report’s recommendations.

McCarthy, speaking in Jackson before the group, said he initially defended the FBI, believing there was no way it could have relied so heavily on the unsubstantiated Steele dossier. But as he researched his book, McCarthy realized he was wrong and became appalled at the unprofessionalism and politics at the highest level of the federal law enforcement agency. McCarthy told the group, “I initially said that what we’re going to find when we get to the end of this, is that the FBI may have taken this dossier from this character Steele, but they’re not just going to take it and run over to court with it. They will take the five or six facts they need to verify that the people they are investigating are foreign agents, then the FBI will do what the FBI does. They would take the allegations and then go to school. They’ll develop other witnesses. They’ll corroborate documents, and by the time they go to court, you won’t even have to hear Christopher Steele’s name. But exactly the thing I said could never happen, happened.”

It’s been a long time since FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover abused his power and blackmailed politicians for political ends. This Steele affair illustrates that America must remain vigilant and suspicious about the potential for corruption and abuse at the highest levels of power.

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