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

November 24, 2022 61 min

This Thanksgiving, we're revisiting a conversation with Anderson Cooper from October 2021. Anderson is now a well-known CNN anchor and host of the new podcast, All There Is with Anderson Cooper, but he got his start in journalism armed with just a camcorder and a fake press pass. Anderson is also part of the storied Vanderbilt family, which he wrote about in the book Vanderbilt: The Rise and Fall of an American Dynasty. He join...

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Just months after graduating from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a degree in engineering, California Senator Alex Padilla was drawn to politics, outraged by a state ballot initiative regarding undocumented immigrants. He soon became the youngest Los Angeles City Council president and is now the first Latino senator from California. Sen. Padilla joined David to talk about the 2022 midterms, election deniers and voter...

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November 10, 2022 47 min

Rusty Bowers, Speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, is a Mormon and conservative Republican. He is also a sculptor and painter with a love of the outdoors who likes to sketch satirical drawings of his fellow legislators. After years in the state legislature, Speaker Bowers rose to national prominence when, as he said, he chose his oath to the Constitution over pressure from Donald Trump and his allies to overturn Arizona...

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November 3, 2022 67 min

Journalist Major Garrett caught the journalism bug early, chasing fire trucks down the street in search of a story as a kid. He has since spent his career as a Congressional and White House correspondent, most recently at CBS. Major joined David to talk about the upcoming midterm elections, what he believes is hurting Biden and Democratic candidates, the state of democracy, and his new book written with David Becker debunking the m...

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October 27, 2022 54 min

In the span of 15 months, Rep. Liz Cheney went from House GOP conference chair to losing her primary by more than 30 points. Her fall within the Republican Party began with her vote to impeach President Donald Trump after the January 6 attack on the Capitol and accelerated when she joined the House committee investigating the events of that day. Rep. Cheney joined David to talk about Trump and his supporters in Congress, her work o...

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October 20, 2022 56 min

Journalist Maggie Haberman began covering Donald Trump as a reporter for the New York tabloids in the early 2000s. Now at The New York Times, Maggie rose to national prominence churning out scoops on the Trump White House. Maggie joined David to talk about her complex relationship with Trump, what she believes is Trump’s legacy, what a second Trump administration would look like, and her new book, “Confidence Man: The Making of Don...

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October 13, 2022 54 min

In high school, Cody Keenan wanted to be an orthopedic surgeon. But a challenging college chemistry course led him to pursue a degree in political science instead. He got his start working in the mailroom for Sen. Ted Kennedy, eventually becoming chief speech writer for President Barack Obama. Cody joined David to talk about the challenges of speech writing, battling imposter syndrome, the joys and frustrations of working in politi...

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October 6, 2022 59 min

While in law school, former Alabama Senator Doug Jones skipped class to watch the trial of Robert Chambliss, convicted in 1977 for his role in the deadly 1963 Birmingham church bombing, which killed four Black girls. Decades later, as a US attorney, Jones successfully prosecuted two others involved in the attack. Doug joined David to talk about the state of the Democratic Party and why Alabama voters have turned their backs on Demo...

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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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September 22, 2022 61 min

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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