In thanking the protesters who picketed U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions in Reno this week, we thought it was a good time to revisit some comments Sessions addressed to Nevadans 11 months ago.

The attorney general was in Las Vegas to speak to a group of law enforcement officials on July 12, 2017.

As the Los Angeles Times later reported, “Sessions sprinkled his speech with horror stories of gangs like MS-13, which originated in Los Angeles and has ‘tentacles stretching from the Salvadoran prison system across the United States’ … He brought up the story of Kathryn Steinle, who was killed while walking on a pier in San Francisco with her father. Authorities charged a Mexican national who had served three federal prison terms for felony reentry into the country.”

“Removing criminals like these from our streets makes Nevada safer,” Sessions said. “It would make Los Angeles and San Francisco safer—if they would do it.”

The story ran under the headline, “Jeff Sessions has a message for Nevada: Don’t be California.”

Is there no end to the ways Republicans find to pit our people against each other?

It should be noted that outside the building in which Sessions spoke on that occasion, there were Nevadans chanting “Sessions, Sessions, you can’t hide. We can see your racist side.” It should also be noted that Sessions was finding fault with Californians for the handling of a federal court case. And it should be noted finally that of all the crimes available for Sessions to cite, he chose examples of people of color.

Sessions deserves the sympathy of all of us for enduring the attacks he has from our bumbling “president” for doing his job ethically. He gave up a seat in the U.S. Senate to serve an ungrateful, tantrum-throwing child. As the New York Times has described Sessions’ predicament, “Mr. Sessions has taken more abuse from President Trump than any other member of his high-churn cabinet because he recused himself from the Justice Department’s investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Over 14 months in office, Mr. Sessions has gone from, in Mr. Trump’s words, ‘a great protector of the people’ to ‘weak,’ ‘disgraceful’ and an ‘idiot’.”

Trump is our national expert on idiocy, so he knows whereof he speaks. A less ethical AG than Sessions might have stayed on the Russia case to cover it up for Trump.

It has not been easy for Sessions to do his job, knowing he can be undercut at any moment by the mercurial figure in the White House. Sunland Park, N.M. police chief Javier Guerra told the Times, “When you’re walking around with an ax in back of your neck, you have to be careful.”

Yet Sessions seems to feel he must imitate Trump in order to serve him, and that is not so. Neither Sessions nor Trump need to divide our country in order to lead it, and the Nevadans in Las Vegas a year ago and in Reno this week have done a terrific service to show that we and Californians are fellow citizens, that Sessions’ attempt to demonize Californians is as bad as demonizing Nevadans—of whatever ethnicity. We are all in this society together—well, except for those few like Sessions and Trump who try to separate themselves from the rest of us.

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