The Axe Files with David Axelrod

The Axe Files with David Axelrod

David Axelrod, the founder and director of the University of Chicago Institute of Politics, and CNN bring you The Axe Files, a series of revealing interviews with key figures in the political world. Go beyond the soundbites and get to know some of the most interesting players in politics.

Episodes

September 29, 2022 57 min

When journalist and author Beth Macy first pitched a book about the opioid crisis in 2014, her publisher and editor rejected the idea. But Beth kept following the story, publishing “Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors and the Drug Company that Addicted America” in 2018. The book has since been adapted into an Emmy Award-winning Hulu miniseries. Beth joined David to talk about her upbringing in Urbana, Ohio, how the loss of manufacturing job...

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Chris Wallace spent 18 years at the helm of Fox News Sunday, surprising viewers when he announced his resignation on-air in December 2021. Now at CNN with a new show streaming on HBO Max, Wallace has admitted that the lies about the 2020 election and anti-media rhetoric at Fox influenced his decision to leave. He joined David to talk about interviewing Vladimir Putin and the war in Ukraine, how the media shifted under Trump, the st...

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September 15, 2022 58 min

Rep. Adam Kinzinger was one of just 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump following the January 6 insurrection. After deciding to not seek reelection in 2022, Rep. Kinzinger has spent his last months in office as a member of the January 6 Committee, investigating the events of that day. He joined David to talk about his work on the Committee, tribalism in politics and its negative effect on leaders...

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This week we’re sharing a conversation between Jon Favreau, host of Offline, a podcast from Crooked Media, and Ev Williams, co-founder and former CEO of Twitter. The two discuss Twitter’s early years, including the design decisions behind some of the app’s most important features. They dive into the promise of Twitter and attempt to make sense of what’s changed. Ev also talks about Twitter’s newest board member and largest sharehol...

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This week The Axe Files team is sharing an episode of Hell & High Water with John Heilemann. This episode features a conversation with David Axelrod and was recorded in New York City in December 2021. Together they took a look back at the year in politics, from the Biden administration’s successes and mishaps, Covid-19, the polarization and paralysis in Washington, and Donald Trump’s continued stranglehold on the Republican Par...

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In 2020, Alexis Ohanian, Co-Founder of Reddit & Founder of Seven Seven Six, broke ties with the $10 billion-dollar company he helped to build as an act of protest during the Black Lives Matter movement. In doing so, he stepped away from the business he’d known for most of his career, and instead decided to found a different kind of VC firm.

 

In this episode, Alexis tells Alex about the traumas he faced at the very start of his...

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August 18, 2022 43 min

As a young boy, former Secretary of State and National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger and his family escaped Nazi Germany; later, as a soldier with the US military, he helped liberate the Ahlem concentration camp, a searing, surreal moment for a Jewish immigrant. Both revered and controversial, Kissinger is best known as a towering foreign policy figure, guided by his belief in realpolitik. He joined David to talk about working w...

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August 11, 2022 61 min

Ten years after serving in Afghanistan, Jason Kander was a rising star in the Democratic Party, testing the waters for a presidential run. In 2018, he shocked the political world when he ended his campaign for mayor of Kansas City to seek treatment for PTSD. He joined David to talk about falling in love with the Army, focusing on his career as a form of self-medication, trading presidential aspirations for personal healing, and his...

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August 4, 2022 58 min

At 15, musician John Legend wrote an essay proclaiming he would one day become a famous singer and use his platform to advance civil rights. His words ended up being particularly prescient; he has since spent his life pursuing dual paths of artistry and social justice. For the 500th episode of The Axe Files, John talks with David about his musical roots in the church, his consulting gig at Boston Consulting Group while waiting for ...

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As we prepare for the 500th episode of The Axe Files, we take a look back at the show’s very first episode featuring Sen. Bernie Sanders. David spoke with Sen. Sanders in September 2015, just a few months after he announced his campaign for the Democratic nomination for president. In this episode, Sen. Sanders talks with David about his childhood in Brooklyn, his presidential campaign, and his stance on selfies.

To learn more about ...

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July 21, 2022 62 min

When David Chalian was in first grade, he memorized the names of all the US presidents—in reverse chronological order. His interest in politics was second only to his love of theater. Chalian later found the intersection of his two passions as a journalist covering the larger-than-life characters and intricate storylines in politics. Now the political director at CNN, and host of the CNN Political Briefing podcast, Chalian joined D...

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July 14, 2022 58 min

By the time Colorado Gov. Jared Polis was 16, he was already enrolled at Princeton University. At 23, he became a millionaire after selling the business he started in his college dorm, and at 25, he was elected to state-wide office in Colorado. As a Democratic politician with a libertarian streak, Gov. Polis spent 10 years in Congress before becoming governor. He joined David to talk about volunteering for campaigns before he was a...

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July 7, 2022 49 min

Sen. Chris Murphy caught the political bug early; he was first elected to the Connecticut state legislature at age 25 while still in law school. He eventually served three terms as a US Congressman before being elected to the US Senate in 2012. Shortly before his term began, he became an outspoken advocate for gun reform after a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at his district’s Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. Sen. Mu...

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June 30, 2022 57 min

Kellyanne Conway made history as the first woman to run a Republican campaign for president when she helped Donald Trump win in 2016—a far cry from her days packing blueberries at a farm in New Jersey. As many advisers fell in and out of Trump’s orbit during his presidency, Kellyanne remained a constant presence before leaving the White House in August 2020. She joined David to talk about being raised by four women in blue-collar N...

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June 23, 2022 57 min

After more than three decades representing his Michigan hometown in Congress, Rep. Fred Upton announced his retirement in a speech on the House floor in April 2022. He joined David to talk about his famous Michigan family, his focus on bipartisanship, why he supports gun safety legislation, voting to impeach Donald Trump following the January 6 attack on the Capitol, and his decision not to run for reelection in 2022.

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June 16, 2022 60 min

John Dean, former counsel to President Richard Nixon, was directly involved in covering up the Watergate break-in. But he has also been credited with taking down Nixon, thanks to his critical testimony before the Senate committee investigating the scandal. In recognition of Watergate’s 50th anniversary, John joined David to talk about his professional journey that landed him in the White House at just 31 years old, his involvement ...

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Former US Secretary of Education and CEO of Chicago Public Schools Arne Duncan now spends his days focused on stopping gun violence in his hometown of Chicago through his organization, Chicago CRED. Curtis Toler, the organization’s director of outreach, grew up surrounded by violence and was a gang leader before joining CRED, where he works to stop violence throughout the city and build relationships with at-risk young people. Arne...

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June 2, 2022 54 min

Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts tried to get out of applying to the University of Chicago, as his father wanted, by pretending to forget about the application. His ruse didn’t work, and he ended up attending the school and spending more than a decade in Chicago before making his way back to Omaha. Gov. Ricketts joined David to talk about what he learned from his father, what he believes makes the Second Amendment inalienable, his s...

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May 26, 2022 62 min

Chris Krebs was a champion pole vaulter and spent time as a scuba instructor before getting into infrastructure risk management. He ended up as the director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency at the Department of Homeland Security, a role that put him in former President Trump’s crosshairs as Chris sought to secure the 2020 election infrastructure. He was ultimately fired by the president. Chris joined David to...

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May 19, 2022 54 min

Rep. Jackie Speier got her start in politics working for Rep. Leo Ryan, then a California state Assemblyman. But what started as a high school assignment ended on an airstrip in Guyana, where Rep. Ryan was killed, and Rep. Speier was shot five times ahead of the Jonestown Massacre. She has since dedicated her life to public service, making a mark when she became the first US Representative to speak about her own abortion on the Hou...

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