WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump started picking on Chicago during his campaign, took it with him to the White House and now, after delivering a broadside against the city for its sanctuary city policies on Wednesday, it’s clear Attorney General Jeff Sessions is taking up Chicago bashing on his own.

“For the sake of their city, Chicago’s leaders need to recommit to policies that punish criminals instead of protecting them,” Sessions said in Miami,
connecting — without evidence — the city’s high crime rate to illegal immigration.

Sessions singled out Chicago and its struggle with crime in the Miami speech about the administration’s push against sanctuary cities, of which Chicago is one.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel sued Sessions last week in a federal court in Chicago to bar him from carrying out his threat to cut federal crime-fighting funds from sanctuary cities. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III is the sole defendant in the city’s lawsuit.

OPINION

Sessions didn’t use Emanuel’s name in the speech, but there is no doubt who he was talking about when he said, “the leaders in Chicago have made this a political issue.”

Emanuel, referring to Trump equating white supremacists to the protesters they fought in Charlottesville over the weekend, said in a statement, “in a week in which the Trump administration is being forced to answer questions about neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and the KKK, they could not have picked a worse time to resume their attack on the immigrants who see America as a beacon of hope.

“Chicago will continue to stand up proudly as a welcoming city, and we will not cave to the Trump administration’s pressure because they are wrong morally, wrong factually and wrong legally,” Emanuel said.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and CPD Supt. Eddie Johnson announce during a press conference on Aug. 6, 2017, that the City of Chicago will file a federal lawsuit to try to prevent President Donald Trump and the U.S. Justice Department from making a federal crime prevention grant conditional on immigration enforcement policies. | Scott Olson/Getty Images

Let’s be clear: Sessions and Trump don’t know what they are talking about when they link Chicago’s ongoing struggle with crime to city policies in dealing with illegal immigrants and shielding them from federal immigration agents.

Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson said in a statement, “I have said it before and I will say it again, undocumented immigrants are not driving violence in Chicago and that’s why I want our officers focused on community policing and not trying to be the immigration police.”

Trump and Sessions wrongly conflate two important issues when it comes to Chicago and crime and illegal immigration.

Sessions, himself endangered until a few weeks ago — Trump let him dangle over whether he would fire him because of the Russia investigation — has found a safe haven in stepping up on a centerpiece of the Trump agenda: getting rid of so-called sanctuary local governments that have embraced policies to shield illegal immigrants from federal immigration agents.

What’s remarkable is that Sessions is going out of his way, trying to whip up public opinion against Emanuel at the same time the city is suing Sessions in court in a case that may be destined for the Supreme Court.

Hours after Emanuel filed the lawsuit on Aug. 8, Sessions, in a statement, blasted the “political leadership of Chicago” and “the culture of lawlessness that has beset the city.”

So Sessions already pushed out this line of attack, but did not do so in a speech. He took care of that on Wednesday.

Sessions very much wanted to throw more of a spotlight on Chicago — so much so that the Justice Department touted the Miami speech on Wednesday morning as “Sessions to take on Chicago political leadership in today’s sanctuary policies speech.”

Emanuel takes a lot of criticism for the city’s high murder rate, and as the mayor, the buck stops at his desk. But cutting crime-fighting grants doesn’t make sense, especially since Trump promised earlier this year to “send in the feds.”

“These sanctuary jurisdictions have the gall to feign outrage when their police departments lose federal funds as a direct result of their malfeasance,” Sessions said.

Doesn’t he know? On this one, Emanuel isn’t feigning anything.