Updated May 16, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Off the Rails: Episode library

Photo illustration of the top half of Donald Trump's face
Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The first line of the Axios Manifesto is "Audience First." That's why we created our unique Smart Brevity style to get you smarter, faster, on topics that matter. But it also means we won't shy away from important stories that are worthy of more detail and more of your time, like our Deep Dives, Axios Investigates and now this deeply reported series, "Off the Rails.” 

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios special series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

  • Our podcast on the series is called "How it happened: Trump's last stand." Episodes will be released each Monday, beginning on Jan. 18.
Episode 1: A premeditated lie lit the fire
Photo illustration of Donald trump speaking with quotes from his election night speech in the background
Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Trump’s refusal to believe the election results was premeditated. He had heard about the “red mirage” — the likelihood that early vote counts would tip more Republican than the final tallies — and he decided to exploit it.

Episode 2: Barbarians at the Oval
Rudy Giuliani and the White House
Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Trump stops buying what his professional staff are telling him, and increasingly turns to radical voices telling him what he wants to hear.

Episode 3: Descent into madness
Photo illustration of torn ballots with images of Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell and Jenna Ellis
Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The conspiracy goes too far. Trump's outside lawyers plot to seize voting machines and spin theories about communists, spies and computer software.

Episode 4: Trump turns on Barr
Bill Barr
Photo illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photos: Drew Angerer, Pool/Getty Images

Trump torches what is arguably the most consequential relationship in his Cabinet.

Episode 5: The secret CIA plan
Gina Haspel
Photo illustration: Aïda Amer, Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Trump vs. Gina — The president becomes increasingly rash and devises a plan to tamper with the nation's intelligence command.

Episode 6: Last stand in Georgia
Trump and Air Force One illustration
Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Drew Angerer, Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

Georgia had not backed a Democratic presidential candidate since 1992 and Trump's defeat in this Deep South stronghold, and his reaction to that loss, would help cost Republicans the U.S. Senate as well. Georgia was Trump's last stand.

Episode 7: Trump turns on Pence
Trump and Pence
Photo illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photos: Elijah Nouvelage, Alex Wong/Getty Images

Trump believes the vice president can solve all his problems by simply refusing to certify the Electoral College results. It's a simple test of loyalty: Trump or the U.S. Constitution.

Episode 8: The siege
Trump illustration over crowds
Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photos: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

An inside account of the deadly insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6 that ultimately failed to block the certification of the Electoral College. And, finally, Trump's concession.

Bonus episode: Inside the craziest meeting of the Trump era
Illustration of conspiracy theorists in the Oval Office
Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Getty Images photos: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post, George Frey/Bloomberg

In this bonus edition, we take you back into the final weeks of the Trump presidency — to one long, unhinged night a week before Christmas, when an epic, profanity-soaked standoff played out with profound implications for the nation.

Episode 9: Trump's war with his generals
Trump memo signed
Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Months after he left office, an important piece about Trump's final days as president began to emerge: His last-minute bid to pull U.S. forces from Afghanistan and swaths of the Middle East, Africa and even Europe ahead of Joe Biden's inauguration — and why he blinked.

If you're in a hurry, check out the abbreviated versions of each episode:

About the series

Our reporting is based on interviews with current and former White House, campaign, government and congressional officials as well as eyewitnesses and people close to the president. Sources have been granted anonymity to share sensitive observations or details they would not be authorized to disclose. President Trump and other officials to whom quotes and actions have been attributed by others were provided the opportunity to confirm, deny or respond to reporting elements prior to publication.

"Off the Rails" is reported by White House reporter Jonathan Swan, with writing, reporting and research assistance by Zach Basu. It was edited by Margaret Talev and Mike Allen and copy edited by Eileen O'Reilly. Illustrations by Sarah Grillo, Aïda Amer and Eniola Odetunde.

Go deeper