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The Axe Files with David Axelrod
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The Axe Files with David Axelrod

Author: The Institute of Politics & CNN

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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.
456 Episodes
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Ep. 443 — Sally Yates

Ep. 443 — Sally Yates

2021-05-1301:00:02

Sally Yates was born into a family of lawyers. She followed suit, entering private practice before becoming a federal prosecutor, which began a 27 year career at the Department of Justice. As Deputy Attorney General during the Obama administration and then as Acting Attorney General just after President Trump took office, she was involved in the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Just ten days into her tenure as Acting Attorney General, Yates was fired by President Trump after refusing to enforce his travel ban on those from predominantly Muslim countries. She joined David to talk about the assault on truth and institutions, the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6, voting rights, police reform, and her work advocating for mental health and suicide prevention. To learn more about how CNN protects listener privacy, visit cnn.com/privacy
Ep. 442 — Jen Psaki

Ep. 442 — Jen Psaki

2021-05-0601:01:201

Press Secretary Jen Psaki didn’t envision herself returning to the White House after serving as Communications Director under President Obama, but when President Joe Biden asked her to join his team, she agreed. She now speaks on behalf of the Biden administration and holds near-daily press briefings, which she called just the tip of the iceberg of her responsibilities. Jen joined David to talk about how the constant flow of information shapes her communication strategy, what the job of press secretary actually looks like, why comparisons between the Obama and Biden administrations miss the mark, and her expectation for a short-lived stint in her current role. To learn more about how CNN protects listener privacy, visit cnn.com/privacy
As the second oldest of 12 siblings growing up in a two-bedroom house, former Republican House Speaker John Boehner learned early on how to wrangle a large, chaotic group of people. After catching the political bug as a member of his neighborhood homeowner’s association, Speaker Boehner worked his way to the top of House leadership. He joined David to talk about his thoughts on earmarks, his respect for Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi, his horror over the events of January 6 and his new book, “On the House: A Washington Memoir.” To learn more about how CNN protects listener privacy, visit cnn.com/privacy
US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield grew up in the small, segregated Louisiana town of Baker. After watching a group of Peace Corps volunteers who showed up in Baker for training, Thomas-Greenfield decided to pursue a career in foreign affairs. Amb. Thomas-Greenfield joined David to talk about growing up in the segregated South, facing down death in Rwanda, the importance of the US engaging with both adversaries and allies, and her reaction to the jury finding former police officer Derek Chauvin guilty in the murder of George Floyd. They also talked about the security threats posed by climate change and the Leaders Summit on Climate hosted by the Biden administration. To learn more about how CNN protects listener privacy, visit cnn.com/privacy
Ep. 439 — Jamie Dimon

Ep. 439 — Jamie Dimon

2021-04-1501:03:352

Jamie Dimon assumed the roles of CEO and Chairman of JPMorgan Chase in 2005 and 2006 respectively, just before the onset of the Great Recession. He's been widely credited with steering the bank safely through the global financial crisis, making his one of the most sought-after voices in finance. Just days after releasing his annual letter to shareholders, Dimon joined David to talk about his outlook for a post-pandemic economy, America’s competitive edge over China, the responsibility of government and business to combat and correct systemic racism, and the precariousness of the American Dream.  To learn more about how CNN protects listener privacy, visit cnn.com/privacy
When Senator Tammy Duckworth was shot down over Iraq while serving in the US Army, she did not notice at first that her legs were mostly gone, destroyed by the blast. After countless surgeries and hours of rehab, Sen. Duckworth eventually learned to walk on prosthetics. Her new memoir, Every Day Is a Gift, recounts her injury and recovery, as well as her childhood and rise to the US Senate. Sen. Duckworth talked with David about growing up in Southeast Asia and Hawaii and the financial struggles her family experienced, the challenges facing working mothers today, and why she refused to see then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld during her recovery at Walter Reed Hospital. To learn more about how CNN protects listener privacy, visit cnn.com/privacy
Ep. 437 — Bud Selig

Ep. 437 — Bud Selig

2021-04-0853:561

Growing up, former Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig was enamored with baseball, thanks primarily to his mother’s love of the game. After a brief stint selling cars, he jumped into the MLB, working his way up to commissioner. Commissioner Selig joined David to discuss watching Jackie Robinson’s debut at Wrigley Field as a 13-year-old fan, always doing what he thought was best for the game as commissioner, dealing with the steroid scandal, and why he believes baseball is a social institution. To learn more about how CNN protects listener privacy, visit cnn.com/privacy
Growing up as the son of an ordained minister, Rev. Dr. William Barber didn’t want to be a preacher. But during his senior year of college he reconsidered, and after a long talk with his father, he preached his first sermon a few weeks later. Rev. Barber has since become a leading voice in the national fight for social justice. He joined David to talk about desegregating his school as a second grader, starting Moral Mondays to combat voter suppression, how he sees the fight for a $15 minimum wage as a fight for racial justice and why he believes we’re in the midst of a third Reconstruction. To learn more about how CNN protects listener privacy, visit cnn.com/privacy
Ep. 435 — Kara Swisher

Ep. 435 — Kara Swisher

2021-03-2501:11:333

While using an early iteration of email in the 1990s, tech journalist Kara Swisher, host of the podcasts “Sway” and “Pivot,” had a feeling the internet was about to become a giant story. She jumped on it and became a preeminent source of tech news with distinct insight into Silicon Valley. She talks with David about the power that comes with speaking her mind and being bold, the moment she realized digitization was about to change the world, how she quickly pinpointed the privacy and disinformation dangers of social media, and why she believes China could one day run entirely on artificial intelligence. To learn more about how CNN protects listener privacy, visit cnn.com/privacy
For Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, the last year was full of unexpected challenges and opportunities. She has led her city through the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, and when summer social justice protests in Atlanta turned violent, Bottoms gave an impromptu press conference imploring people to go home. Mayor Bottoms spoke to David the day after a string of shootings in the Atlanta area that left eight dead. The two talked about how her father’s time in prison shaped her and her family’s life, how her faith has guided her political career, enacting police reform while pushing back on an uptick in crime, and why she believes “outrageous” voting legislation proposed by Georgia Republicans won’t stop the state from voting blue. To learn more about how CNN protects listener privacy, visit cnn.com/privacy
Ep. 433 — Tim Alberta

Ep. 433 — Tim Alberta

2021-03-1101:11:442

Journalist Tim Alberta got his first taste of Washington, DC straight out of undergrad as an intern for The Wall Street Journal. Since then, he has become a plugged-in political reporter, with a particular focus on the Republican Party. He has watched and reported as American politics and priorities shifted—something he said most of the country has yet to fully grapple with. He joined David to discuss growing up the son of an evangelical pastor, covering the 2020 election from his home state of Michigan, what the media missed in 2016 and his 2019 book, “American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump.” To learn more about how CNN protects listener privacy, visit cnn.com/privacy
Rep. Joe Neguse first became interested in politics at a young age, inspired by his immigrant parents’ lesson to give back to the country that had welcomed them from Eritrea. He joined student government and got elected to the University of Colorado Board of Regents while still in law school. But the second-term congressman reached national prominence as an impeachment manager in the second impeachment trial of former President Trump, delivering deft and emotional arguments on behalf of House Democrats. Rep. Neguse joined David to talk about his personal connection to immigration legislation, his experiences on January 6 and throughout the impeachment process, and why he believes voting rights might force filibuster reform. To learn more about how CNN protects listener privacy, visit cnn.com/privacy
Ep. 431 — Fareed Zakaria

Ep. 431 — Fareed Zakaria

2021-02-2601:02:551

As the Covid-19 pandemic spread across the US and much of the country hunkered down under stay-at-home orders, journalist, author and CNN host Fareed Zakaria was already thinking about the future. He began considering the lessons the virus could teach us about our health, the economy and society moving forward. Fareed joined David to discuss what we’ve learned so far about combatting Covid-19, why today’s economy needs political intervention for a more equitable future, the faltering American Dream and his new book, “Ten Lessons for a Post-Pandemic World.” To learn more about how CNN protects listener privacy, visit cnn.com/privacy
Ep. 430 — Heidi Heitkamp

Ep. 430 — Heidi Heitkamp

2021-02-1801:09:192

While former US Senator Heidi Heitkamp was growing up in Mantador, North Dakota, her family made up one tenth of the town’s population. She took the lessons she learned from her small-town upbringing to the Senate, where she served as a rare Democrat from a deep-red state willing to work across the aisle with then-President Donald Trump. Former Sen. Heitkamp joined David to talk about rural America’s emotional attachment to Trump, the energy industry and climate change, why she couldn’t vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court and the passing of conservative radio star Rush Limbaugh.   To learn more about how CNN protects listener privacy, visit cnn.com/privacy
Ep. 429 — Daniel Goldman

Ep. 429 — Daniel Goldman

2021-02-1101:00:431

After more than a decade working as a federal prosecutor and legal analyst, Daniel Goldman became a household name in 2020 for his role as lead counsel for the House in the first impeachment trial of former President Trump. As Trump’s second impeachment trial continues, Daniel joined David to talk about the House managers’ opening arguments, the through line from Trump’s first impeachment to his second, growing up a descendent of Levi Strauss, and how losing his father as a child impacted the trajectory of his life.  To learn more about how CNN protects listener privacy, visit cnn.com/privacy
Ep. 428 — Andrew McCabe

Ep. 428 — Andrew McCabe

2021-02-0401:01:013

Former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe didn’t always plan to become an agent, but while interning at the Department of Justice he found himself obsessed with intricate details in case records. The fascination led him to a 22-year career in the Bureau—one that would end with McCabe himself at the center of a DOJ investigation. He joined David to talk about the “slow burning rise” of domestic terrorism, the decision to open an investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 election, and the damage he believes the Trump administration has done to the FBI. To learn more about how CNN protects listener privacy, visit cnn.com/privacy
Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a sixth-term Congressman from Illinois, recently found himself in the spotlight after he called for former President Trump’s removal from office following the January 6 attack on the Capitol. He was also one of 10 Republican House members to vote in favor of impeaching Trump. While some are lauding him as a voice of reason within the Republican Party, others are deriding him for turning against Trump and being out of touch with the broader GOP. Rep. Kinzinger joined David to talk about what he sees as his battle to restore the Republican Party, what happens when leaders are more concerned with fame than policy, the evil he felt on Jan. 6 and whether he has future plans for statewide office. To learn more about how CNN protects listener privacy, visit cnn.com/privacy
Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin found she had a knack for storytelling as a child, recounting baseball games inning-by-inning for her father when he’d return home from work. The Pulitzer Prize-winning author has since harnessed that skill into chronicling the lives and leadership styles of American presidents at moments of national crisis, most recently with her 2018 book Leadership in Turbulent Times. Doris joined David to talk about the episodes of history that have led us to the present day, the fight for the soul of the Republican Party, and the historic inauguration of President Joe Biden.  To learn more about how CNN protects listener privacy, visit cnn.com/privacy
Ep. 425 — Joe Scarborough

Ep. 425 — Joe Scarborough

2021-01-1401:03:322

Joe Scarborough had his first media experience hosting a call-in show on public access television to raise his political profile during a run for Congress. He won that 1994 Congressional race and held the Florida seat until 2001 before returning to television full-time. Now the co-host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, he joined David to discuss the violence at the US Capitol on Jan. 6, his hot and cold relationship with Donald Trump, what happens next for the Republican Party, and his new book, Saving Freedom: Truman, the Cold War, and the Fight for Western Civilization. To learn more about how CNN protects listener privacy, visit cnn.com/privacy
Rep. Ayanna Pressley got her start in progressive politics at a young age, watching as her mother fought for tenants’ rights as an organizer in Chicago. When Rep. Pressley left college to care for her ailing mother, it didn’t stop her political trajectory. After serving as the first woman of color on the Boston City Council, she beat out a long-time incumbent in 2018 for a seat in US House of Representatives. Rep. Pressley joined David to talk about the destruction caused by Covid-19, prioritizing marginalized groups in legislation, criminal justice reform, and the implications of the Georgia Senate runoffs. To learn more about how CNN protects listener privacy, visit cnn.com/privacy
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Comments (13)

Sherry Chase

0

Oct 25th
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Sherry Chase

0

Oct 25th
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gary fowler

Great interview. I'm always impressed when a white American can be honest about white apathy/disinterest regarding equity in the US. it has always been obvious we who live outside of the US. Nothing will change until campaign finance, Citizens United and gerrymandering are corrected.

Jun 26th
Reply

Nellie Fly

The ragin Cajun. I could listen to him read the phone book.

May 8th
Reply

Paul Sorensen

This interview with Andrew Gillum is so uplifting and eye opening. I hope he gets a chance to become part of the 46th president's Whitehouse. His kind of innovative thinking is really needed. Thanks David Axelrod.

Mar 12th
Reply

Diane Grillo

Terrific episode! My head feels like a closet that needs organizing. Now you can enjoy a lighter moment trying to figure out what it is I'm trying to say! I firmly believe that Russia created the whole Vegas movement with Bernie just as they began the Trump movement. I don't know how they knew Americans were dumb enough to completely empty their refrigerators. Who in their right mind would want to implement a country changing system after 4 years of a madman deconstructing 200 years of American accomplishments? Why hasn't even one candidate spoken of the immediate need to rebuild our relationships around the world? Joe Biden is the man for that job. He is also the one with 40 years of fruendly DC relationships. We need to properly staff the WH, replace Ambassadors around the world, find and fix all the deregulations before we can't drink the water and we're all getting cancer from waste dumping again! And Bernie's concern is Medicare for all in a country of over 300 million that he compares to those with 20 million! He won't be doing anything if the Supreme Court is even ruling in a partisan manner. We all know the media is crucial for a Democrat to win and right now they are only helping Trump as they love pitting candidates against one another and appear in a bad light. A couple of negative Trump phrases to chant for the democratic mantra and we can brainwash the deplorables in a NY second

Feb 24th
Reply

Andy Weir

still a sore loser lol

Feb 16th
Reply

Fraser Scantlebury

An excellent interview - heard more about Yang's programs here then on any other podcast/news report. Thanks to David and the crew for making this interview available for free.

Dec 7th
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fresh mannn

I want this person for President

Dec 7th
Reply

Andy Weir

sore loser

Mar 24th
Reply

Andres Fernandez G

excellent interview and exemplary carreer in the pursuit of understanding Russia

Jul 21st
Reply

heather lankford

I appreciate your honesty on the subject of suicide. I know first hand how tough it is to be part of this club.

Feb 5th
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