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Barton Gellman on how propaganda inspired the Jan.6 insurgents.

Barton Gellman on how propaganda inspired the Jan.6 insurgents.


David Axelrod, the founder and director of the University of Chicago Institute of Politics, brings 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.

  • Ep. 473 — Barton Gellman

    Journalist Barton Gellman has been questioning power and authority since, as editor of the school paper, he sued his high school for censorship. He has made a career of shining a spotlight on the use and abuse of power, most recently in a series of in-depth warnings for The Atlantic on Trump and threats to American democracy. He joined David to talk about how skepticism towards authority has shaped his career, grappling with the interests of national security versus self-government, and the poteShow morentially perilous future he sees for US democracy. 

  • Ep. 472 — Rep. Jamie Raskin

    Maryland Congressman Jamie Raskin rose to national prominence when he led the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump in January 2021, a proceeding that took place just weeks after two compounding traumas: the death of his son and the January 6th attack on the Capitol. Raskin joined David to talk about losing his son, Tommy, the January 6 insurrection and its aftermath, the cracks in the electoral college, if the country could survive another Trump presidency, and his new book,Show more “Unthinkable: Trauma, Truth and the Trials of American Democracy.”

  • Best of The Axe Files: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern

    New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has already faced a series of unprecedented crises during her four year tenure in the nation’s highest office. This week, we revisit our June 2021 conversation with the young, progressive Prime Minister who has led her country through a terrorist attack, a natural disaster, and most recently the Covid-19 pandemic. From her rural and working-class childhood to her nation’s highest office, Prime Minister Ardern says her focus has always been on creating a Show moremore just society. She joined David to talk about her early introduction to politics, the difference between working with the Trump and Biden administrations, her government’s response to Covid-19, New Zealand’s relationship with China, and how she measures her success.

  • Best of The Axe Files: Jen Psaki

    This week, we revisit our May 2021 conversation with White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki. 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 ofShow more 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

  • Ep. 471 — Rep. Elissa Slotkin

    Michigan Rep. Elissa Slotkin intended to pursue international development work, but watching the twin towers fall on 9/11 as a graduate student in New York changed the trajectory of her career. Rep. Slotkin spent years in the CIA before running for office, flipping a Trump district from red to blue in 2018. Rep. Slotkin joined David to talk about the difficulty of being a Midwestern member of the Democratic Party, the rifts in Congress, the recent fatal high school shooting in her district, and Show morehow her time in the CIA and at the Pentagon inform her role as a politician.

  • Ep. 470 — Gen. Stanley McChrystal

    After more than three decades in the military, including overseeing joint special operations and leading the war in Afghanistan, retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal has learned a thing or two about risk. He recently wrote “Risk: A User’s Guide,” a manual on assessing and mitigating perilous situations. He joined David to talk about his latest book, the country’s 20 years in Afghanistan, how the US failed to successfully manage Covid-19, and the threat of disinformation.

  • Ep. 469 — Marc Short

    A longtime Republican operative, Marc Short served as both White House director of legislative affairs and chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence during the Trump administration. He joined David to share his take on the administration, his relationship with Pence, the politicization of Covid-19, his first-hand account of the events that transpired on January 6th, and his thoughts on the role of the federal government.

  • Ep. 468 — Chris Christie

    Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie considers Donald Trump a friend, but he has been outspoken against the former president’s insistence that the 2020 election was stolen. He is now considering a run for president in 2024 and has said a Trump candidacy would not stop him. He joined David to talk about the need for truth in politics, his battle with Covid-19, the virus’ lasting impacts on society, and his hope that his new book, “Republican Rescue,” gives other Republicans courage to speak Show moreout against lies and conspiracy theories.

  • Ep. 467 — Rep. Pramila Jayapal

    Rep. Pramila Jayapal came to the US for college at just 16 years old. She found success in finance, nonprofits and activism before deciding to take her fight to politics. She joined David to talk about knowing when to use her legislative leverage as chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, getting the bipartisan infrastructure bill over the finish line, the need for filibuster reform to protect voting rights and her relationship with President Biden.

  • Ep. 466 — Fiona Hill

    Growing up in England’s distressed coal country, there weren’t many opportunities for bright, ambitious people like Fiona Hill. Through hard work and some lucky breaks, Fiona rose to deputy assistant to the president and senior director for European and Russian affairs on the National Security Council. Consequentially, she also became a household name during the first impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump. She joined David to talk about her hometown, her concerns over the direction Show moreof democracy, her interest in Russia, and her memoir, “There is Nothing For You Here.”