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Tim Naftali is a CNN presidential historian and associate professor at New York University in a joint appointment at NYU’s Wagner Graduate School of Public Service and the history department. From 1998 to 2006, Tim was the founding director of the Presidential Recordings Program at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center of Public Affairs as well as a professor in the history department. In 2007, Tim was appointed as the founding director of the federal Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, California. During his time as the library’s director, he helped create a nonpartisan Watergate exhibit and oversaw the release of over 1 million pages of presidential documents and hundreds of hours of the infamous Nixon tapes. Tim has served as a historical consultant to CNN’s original series Tricky Dick and Netflix’s Designated Survivor. With his expertise in national security, intelligence policy and presidential history, he has authored and co-authored numerous books, including: One Hell of a GambleBlind Spot: The Secret History of American Counterterrorism, a biography of George H.W. Bush and Impeachment: An American History. Tim is now working on a book about President John F. Kennedy and his time in the White House.


  • How Tim never had a career plan and what to expect when you graduate (4:02)
  • What Tim’s responsibilities are as a CNN presidential historian and how he adds historical context to reporting on Trump (8:30)
  • How Tim thinks Donald Trump will likely be remembered decades from now (12:11)
  • Why he once said Trump has “all the dark side of Nixon and none of the good” (16:10)
  • Tim’s experiences as a gay man in the history field, specifically as the director of the Nixon Presidential Library (21:03)
  • What to expect as a member of the LGBTQ+ community in academia and the federal government (30:26)
  • Why Tim believes history doesn’t repeat itself, but human nature does (35:23)
  • What his proudest accomplishments are as the Nixon library director, including the Watergate exhibit, the oral history program, and getting rid of the library’s “enemies list” of speakers that included Robert Redford and Carl Bernstein along with his experiences with Nixonians (35:50)
  • What the Presidential Recordings Program and the Kremlin Decision-making Project was at UVA and how he got the job (40:32)
  • How a book deal out of college changed his career trajectory  (54:57)
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