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Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey stayed out of trouble on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, with fewer-than-expected heated exchanges with lawmakers over content bias and election interference issues.

Yes, but: Between the two hearings, the Justice Department dropped a surprise announcement: Attorney General Jeff Sessions will meet with state attorneys general this month "to discuss a growing concern that these companies may be hurting competition and intentionally stifling the free exchange of ideas on their platforms."

The big picture: A boring day in Washington is a good one for Silicon Valley. Despite hearing statements, lawmakers aren’t anywhere close to taking action to address their frustrations with the social media platforms. Several even acknowledged the work the platforms have done to address the problems they've encountered over the past year.

Lawmakers did, however, make a point to note the absence of Google, which declined to send a top-ranking executive.

Despite the relative calm of the hearings, the unexpected DOJ statement raises the prospect of antitrust action against the companies. The Washington Post reported that the September 25 meeting was planned before Wednesday.

  • House Energy and Commerce Chairman Greg Walden declined to comment on the announcement, but said he had questions about the “enormous market share and power” of web giants.
  • “I’m not going to speak to the Justice Department angle but it is something we’re serious about and we’re trying to work our way through to see what’s the appropriate balance here,” he said shortly after the five-hour House hearing with Twitter's Jack Dorsey.

The combination of policy concerns about competition with the politically contentious allegations of online censorship — not long after President Trump spent a week hammering them — is already raising alarm bells for some.

  • “This is an enormous assertion of investigatory powers, in a highly charged political environment,” said Public Knowledge’s Gene Kimmelman, who served in the Justice Department’s antitrust division during the Obama administration. “I worry that this takes legitimate competition concerns into a dangerous realm of excessive governmental intrusion in the marketplace of ideas.”

Go deeper:

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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

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  2. Politics: Biden unveils "wartime" COVID strategyBiden's COVID-19 bubble.
  3. Vaccine: Florida requiring proof of residency to get vaccine — CDC extends interval between vaccine doses for exceptional cases.
  4. World: Hong Kong to put tens of thousands on lockdown as cases surge.
  5. Sports: 2021 Tokyo Olympics hang in the balance.
  6. 🎧 Podcast: Carbon Health's CEO on unsticking the vaccine bottleneck.

Trump impeachment trial to start week of Feb. 8, Schumer says

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: The Washington Post via Getty

The Senate will begin former President Trump's impeachment trial the week of Feb. 8, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced Friday on the Senate floor.

The state of play: Schumer announced the schedule after reaching an agreement with Republicans. The House will transmit the article of impeachment against the former president late Monday.

4 hours ago - Health

CDC extends interval between COVID vaccine doses for exceptional cases

Photo: Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty

Patients can space out the two doses of the coronavirus vaccine by up to six weeks if it’s "not feasible" to follow the shorter recommended window, according to updated guidance from the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention.

Driving the news: With the prospect of vaccine shortages and a low likelihood that supply will expand before April, the latest changes could provide a path to vaccinate more Americans — a top priority for President Biden.