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Former US Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, on the Axios stage with Mike Allen. Photo: Chuck Kennedy for Axios

Thursday morning, Axios Executive Editor Mike Allen hosted a series of one-on-one conversations on the news of the day, covering topics in foreign affairs and immigration policy in the Trump presidency.

Samantha Power, Former United States Ambassador to the United Nations

United States Ambassador to the United Nations under President Obama, Samantha Power, examined recent foreign policy challenges in the Trump administration and discussed her new memoir, The Education of an Idealist.

She highlighted the role of advisors around President Trump, and how their willingness to agree or disagree with the President impacts policy outcomes.

  • On the departure of John Bolton as National Security Advisor: “Some people are relieved that Bolton is gone...but I’m worried that now what happens is the circle gets smaller and you get fewer viewpoints.”
  • On Secretary of State Mike Pompeo: “I can’t recall reading a story where Sec. Pompeo challenged the president or dissents from his existing convictions.”
  • On North Korea: “I think the prioritization of North Korea and elevating it on the foreign policy agenda was very important...I do think it’s trailed off.”

Power also reflected on her time as ambassador.

  • “I think I stood up to Russian aggression...but I can’t give myself high marks for what happened in Syria.”
Ken Cuccinelli, Acting Director of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
Acting U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services director Ken Cuccinelli answering a question from Axios' Mike Allen. Photo: Chuck Kennedy for Axios

Acting U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Ken Cuccinelli discussed current administration policies around immigration and the recent Supreme Court ruling approving restrictions on asylum seekers.

  • On the rate of asylum seekers who are granted refuge in the United States: "If you look at credible fear interviews...Only 10 or 15% actually get asylum."
  • On the volume of the claims: "They’re clogging up the system so we can’t get people with legitimate asylum claims, and they’re hoping to get released into the interior."
  • On implementing policy: “Anything we’ve done since I’ve been in office...there’s been a strong legal foundation there."

When asked if birthright citizenship can be ended by executive order, he said there were no plans to do so in the near future, but that he'd like to see this change originate at the congressional level.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, Illinois
Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) discussing the news of the day. Photo: Chuck Kennedy for Axios

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) talked about the recently cancelled talks with the Taliban at Camp David, his views on changes in gun legislation, and other news items of the day.

  • On the Taliban and the planned talks at Camp David: "This is a group that has not renounced terrorism...You can bring enemies to Camp David, but they have to be nation-states. When I heard that, I was pretty dismayed.”
  • On whether there will be gun legislation: “I actually do think there will be movement on universal background checks.”
  • On whether House Democrats will open impeachment proceedings: “Yes. I think they know it’s not smart politically, but I’ve been in the situation where we’ve been hostage to the extreme voices in our party.”
  • On defending President Trump: “I want to call balls and strikes...I’ll defend Trump when he needs defending and when it’s legitimate...I defend him when I can, and when I can’t, I don’t.”

Thank you Bank of America for sponsoring this event.

Go deeper

20 mins ago - Health

Moderna says vaccine appears to protect against new COVID-19 variants

Photo: Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images

Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine is effective against new variants of the virus that first appeared in the U.K. and in South Africa, the company announced on Monday.

Yes, but: The vaccine was as effective against the strain from U.K., but saw a six-fold reduction in antibodies against the South Africa variant. Even still, the neutralizing antibodies generated by the vaccine "remain above levels that are expected to be protective," according to the company.

Dave Lawler, author of World
Updated 26 mins ago - World

Xi Jinping warns against "new cold war" in Davos speech

Chinese President Xi Jinping. Photo: Wang Zhao - Pool/Getty Images

Chinese President Xi Jinping warned that a "new cold war" could turn hot, and must be avoided, in a speech on Monday at World Economic Forum’s virtual “Davos Agenda” conference.

Why it matters: Xi didn't refer directly to U.S.-China tensions, but the subtext was clear. These were his first remarks to an international audience since the inauguration of President Biden, whose administration has already concurred with Donald Trump's determination that China is committing "genocide" against Uyghur Muslims, and issued a warning about China's aggression toward Taiwan.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Dominion files $1.3 billion defamation lawsuit against Rudy Giuliani

Photo: Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

Dominion Voting Systems filed a defamation lawsuit against Rudy Giuliani on Monday seeking $1.3 billion in damages for his "demonstrably false” allegations about the company's voting machines.

Why it matters: Giuliani led former President Trump's efforts to overturn the results of the election and spread the baseless conspiracy theory that Dominion's voting machines flipped votes from Trump to Joe Biden.

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