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Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand on the Axios stage Thursday morning. Photo: Chuck Kennedy for Axios

On Thursday morning, Axios Co-founder Mike Allen hosted a series of one-on-one conversations focused on topics around the armed forces, foreign policy, and the news of the day.

Rep. Mac Thornberry, Texas
Rep. Mac Thornberry in conversation with Mike Allen on Thursday. Photo: Chuck Kennedy for Axios

Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX) discussed the importance of the U.S. maintaining its global standing and stressed that the current political environment is distracting politicians from taking action around China's growing strength in science and technology.

  • On his views of the U.S. maintaining its success: "We made two fundamental decisions [after WWII] to stay engaged in the world and maintain a strong military … if that goes away we’ll live in a different world."
  • On where China has gotten ahead: "They’re clearly ahead in counter-space — knocking satellites out of the air ... in hypersonics, directed energy (lasers, microwaves), in some ways artificial intelligence … Meanwhile, we’re dysfunctional."
  • Rep. Thornberry cites term limits on committees as one reason for the House Republican Texodus: “Part of it is the political environment. It’s less fun than it used to be.”
Denis McDonough, Former White House Chief of Staff
Denis McDonough discussing his work at the Markle Foundation on the Axios stage. Photo: Chuck Kennedy for Axios

Former White House Chief of Staff and Senior Principal at the Markle Foundation, Denis McDonough, discussed his work on strengthening the American workforce for a more digitally-connected future, as well as his views on the upcoming 2020 election.

  • On getting workers ready for the new economy: “We don’t know what the jobs of the future will be, but an attribute of all of them are fundamental digital skills ... We don’t have to wait for Washington to get ahead on this.”
  • On chances of Democrats winning in 2020: “The thing that makes me most optimistic is that these Democrats are shaking off what appears to me an unjustifiable crisis of confidence in American political leaders.”
  • On his concerns about Russian interference in American elections: "I continue to be concerned about the president’s unwillingness to name what happened in 2016."
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, New York

Sen. Gillibrand (D-NY) discussed her priorities after the campaign trail, including flipping the Senate, a proposed bill to reassert congressional power in engagement in wars, and taking care of U.S. service members.

  • On the 2020 election: "I’m focused on flipping the Senate ... We’ll have far more leverage to restore the balance of power in the U.S. government."
  • On the significance of a proposed bill to reassert congressional power: "Trump has continually undermined the power of Congress and undermined the power of the judiciary."
  • On taking care of U.S. service members: "We need to protect our men and women … we need to deal with underlying causes of PTSD and we will get to the heart of why [veteran] suicide rates are rising."

Thank you, Bank of America for sponsoring this event.

Go deeper

Trump supporter found with pipe bombs accused of plot to attack Democrats

Five improvised explosive devices that the FBI says "were fully operational and could cause great bodily harm or injury if handled improperly." Photo: FBI/Justice Department

The FBI believes California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) and the Bay Area headquarters of Twitter and Facebook were targets of a man facing federal explosives charges, according to a criminal complaint.

Driving the news: Prosecutors charged Ian Benjamin Rogers after finding weapons including five pipe bombs, 49 guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition following a Jan. 15 search of his Napa County home and auto repair business. His alleged goal was to ensure former President Trump remained in office.

4 hours ago - Health

Fauci: COVID vaccine rollout needs to prioritize people of color

Anthony Fauci. Photo: Alex Wong via Getty Images

Infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci highlighted the need to address racial disparities in the COVID-19 vaccination process, per an interview with The New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday.

What he’s saying: "I think that's the one thing we really got to be careful of. We don't want in the beginning ... most of the people who are getting it are otherwise, well, middle-class white people."

The Mischief Makers

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Several Republican and Democratic lawmakers are emerging as troublemakers within their parties and political thorns for their leadership.

Why it matters: We're calling this group "The Mischief Makers" — members who threaten to upend party unity — the theme eclipsing Washington at the moment — and potentially jeopardize the Democrats' or Republicans' position heading into the 2022 midterms.