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AG Sessions Blasts Calif. Lawmakers

  • California Gov. Jerry Brown is greeted by children as he walks through the Capitol with California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, left, to hold a news conference in response to remarks made U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Wednesday, March 7, 2018, in Sacramento, Calif. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

  • U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions addresses the California Peace Officers' Association 26th Annual Law Enforcement Legislative Day, 7, 2018, in Sacramento, Calif. The Trump administration on Tuesday sued to block California laws that extend protections to people living in the U.S. illegally. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

  • Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf gestures while speaking during a media conference on Wednesday, March 7, 2018, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

  • Demonstrators block traffic in front of the hotel where U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions was speaking to the California Peace Officers Association meeting, Wednesday, March 7, 2018, in Sacramento, Calif. California Gov. Jerry Brown denounced Sessions for coming to the state to speak about a lawsuit targeting policies that limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities, saying Wednesday it was unprecedented for him to "act more like Fox News than a law enforcement officer." (AP Photo/Jonathan J. Cooper)

  • California Gov. Jerry Brown, right, accompanied by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, responds to remarks made U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Wednesday, March 7, 2018, in Sacramento, Calif. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

  • U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions addresses the California Peace Officers' Association at the 26th Annual Law Enforcement Legislative Day, Wednesday, March 7, 2018, in Sacramento, Calif. Sessions told law enforcement officers at the conference Wednesday that the Justice Department sued California because state laws are preventing federal immigration agents from doing their jobs. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

  • California Gov. Jerry Brown, left, accompanied by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, responds to remarks made U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Wednesday, March 7, 2018, in Sacramento, Calif. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

  • Graduate student Steven Lynn holds up a sign during a protest against U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who was speaking to the California Peace Officer Association meeting, Wednesday, March 7, 2018, in Sacramento, Calif. California Gov. Jerry Brown denounced Sessions for coming to the state to speak about a lawsuit targeting policies that limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities, saying Wednesday it was unprecedented for him to "act more like Fox News than a law enforcement officer." (AP Photo/Jonathan J. Cooper)

  • Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf listens to a question from a reporter during a media conference on Wednesday, March 7, 2018, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)



The Washington Post
Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Sacramento — Speaking before a crowd of law enforcement officials in a state he had just accused of violating the Constitution, Attorney General Jeff Sessions excoriated California and some of its state and local leaders on Wednesday for passing laws and taking actions that he said obstruct immigration enforcement and put officers in danger.

In an unusually strident speech that emphasized the supremacy of the federal government by referencing Abraham Lincoln and secession, Sessions said California’s actions “directly and adversely impact the work of our federal officers” and “undermine the duly-established immigration law in America.”

He took particular aim at Oakland Democratic Mayor Libby Schaaf for warning constituents last month about an impending raid by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, alleging that her comments prevented authorities from making 800 arrests. And he said he plans to use the full might of the federal government to bring her state in line.

“California, absolutely, appears to me, is using every power it has — powers it doesn’t have — to frustrate federal law enforcement,” Sessions said. “So you can be sure I’m going to use every power I have to stop them.”

The comments at the California Peace Officers Association’s annual gathering in Sacramento came a day after the Justice Department sued the state of California, alleging that three recently passed laws that benefit undocumented immigrants are unconstitutional. The lawsuit, which seeks to block the laws, represents a major escalation of the attorney general’s crackdown on “sanctuary” jurisdictions, and it drew swift criticism from state leaders, who insisted that their laws would pass legal muster.

Sessions’ comments also sharpen a burgeoning feud between the U.S. government and its most populous — and perhaps most anti-Trump — state. Soon after he was finished speaking, the Trump campaign messaged supporters about the issue in an email with the subject line, “California vs. THE LAW.”

“Americans across the country now can see that Democrats have officially become the party of obstruction, lawlessness, government shutdowns, and of putting illegal immigrants before American citizens,” the email said.

State leaders, meanwhile, girded for battle.

In fiery remarks after Sessions’ speech, Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown said that “the Trump administration is full of liars” and called on Sessions to apologize for “bringing the mendacity of Washington to California.”

He said the Justice Department’s lawsuit was a “political stunt” and said it was ironic that Sessions, who is from Alabama, talked about secession. He suggested that the attorney general might be trying to get back into the good graces of President Donald Trump, who has publicly voiced displeasure about him.

“It really demeans the high office to which he has been appointed,” Brown said, adding later that Sessions was “initiating a reign of terror.”

Sessions’ speech touched on themes familiar to those who have followed his career, in the Senate and as attorney general - rising violent crime, respect for law enforcement, and illegal immigration. But his remarks were notable for their aggressiveness.