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Sessions speaks at Georgetown University Law Center as protestors gather outside. Photos: Jacquelyn Martin / AP (left); Zoya Afridi / GU Law student (right)

Speaking at Georgetown University on free speech on college campuses, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the Justice Department "will enforce federal law, defend free speech and protect students' free expression." He said the department is filing a Statement of Interest in a campus free speech case this week and pledged to file more in the future.

Why it matters: Sessions and the Justice Department are moving forward on free speech in the midst of a tense political climate fueled by the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia and, most recently, the NFL's national anthem protest controversy which President Trump has inflamed.

  • One line that's getting some pushback: "In this great land, the government does not tell you what to think or what to say."
  • The case: Sessions said the department is filing a Statement of Interest in a case involving the First Amendment rights of a Christian group at a college in Georgia.
  • On Trump's NFL tweets: "The president has free speech rights too ... It's a big mistake to protest in that fashion ... I would condemn their actions not them as human beings."
  • On campus speech: Sessions decried the establishment of "free speech zones" on certain U.S. college campuses.
  • Worth noting: Students and faculty who arrived to protest Sessions' speech were given three designated zones to do so by Georgetown Law's Dean of Students.
  • On the violence in Charlottesville: "Let me be clear: protecting free speech does not mean condoning violence like we saw recently in Charlottesville."

Go deeper: The thinking behind the decision by Sessions to give this speech

Go deeper

1 hour ago - World

Special report: Trump's U.S.-China transformation

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

President Trump began his term by launching the trade war with China he had promised on the campaign trail. By mid-2020, however, Trump was no longer the public face of China policy-making as he became increasingly consumed with domestic troubles, giving his top aides carte blanche to pursue a cascade of tough-on-China policies.

Why it matters: Trump alone did not reshape the China relationship. But his trade war shattered global norms, paving the way for administration officials to pursue policies that just a few years earlier would have been unthinkable.

McConnell: Trump "provoked" Capitol mob

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on Tuesday that the pro-Trump mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 was "provoked by the president and other powerful people."

Why it matters: Trump was impeached by the House last week for "incitement of insurrection." McConnell has not said how he will vote in Trump's coming Senate impeachment trial, but sources told Axios' Mike Allen that the chances of him voting to convict are higher than 50%.

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

GOP leaders skip Trump sendoff in favor of church with Biden

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) in July. Photo by Erin Scott-Pool/Getty Images

Congressional leaders, including House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, will skip President Trump's departure ceremony in Maryland tomorrow morning in favor of attending mass with incoming President Joe Biden ahead of his inauguration, congressional sources familiar with their plans tell Axios.

Why it matters: Their decision is a clear sign of unity before Biden takes the oath of office.

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