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.

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