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.


September 28, 2023 63 mins

As a child, journalist and writer Lawrence Wright cherished his summer visits to the library with his mother when he would load up cardboard boxes with books to devour. His love of reading evolved into a love of writing, and he has since written deeply reported books, novels, plays, and screenplays, as well as working as a staff writer for The New Yorker. Lawrence joined David to talk about the Texas of his childhood and what the c...

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After a decades-long career in public service spanning three presidential administrations, Susan Rice left her post as President Biden’s domestic policy advisor in May 2023. Rice joined David to talk about the differences between working on domestic policy and national security, Biden taking office in the throes of the Covid-19 pandemic, the importance of mental health care, the challenges of immigration policy, gun violence's impa...

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September 14, 2023 56 mins

After decades in public office and a 2019 run for president focused on fighting climate change, Washington Governor Jay Inslee recently announced he would not seek reelection in 2024. Gov. Inlsee joined David to talk about where we are in tackling the climate crisis, moving away from a fossil fuel economy, the problems with social media, what he views as a lack of leadership in the Republican Party, and why he is optimistic about t...

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September 7, 2023 48 mins

Born in California to immigrant parents, Scott Galloway says that he’s the product of an America willing to invest in unremarkable people. While Scott has made a name for himself as an entrepreneur, author, professor, and outspoken podcast host, he’s endeared himself to audiences through his candor and vulnerability. Scott joined David to talk about what makes America unique, higher education and its moral short fallings, the benef...

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August 31, 2023 60 mins

Ukrainian Ambassador Oksana Markarova grew up during the downfall of the Soviet Union. She spent much of her career helping rebuild Ukraine’s economy after the country became independent, working in the private sector before joining Ukraine’s Ministry of Finance. She was appointed Ambassador to the U.S. in 2021 in part to help strengthen economic ties, but her priorities quickly shifted after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022...

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August 24, 2023 53 mins

Former US Deputy Attorney General and Attorney General for the Northern District of Georgia Sally Yates has been mostly quiet about the indictments facing former President Donald Trump—the man who fired her as Acting Attorney General just days after he took office. This week, Sally talked to David about the legal perils and “strong cases” against Trump, the idea of a two-tiered legal system, the importance of sticking to facts and ...

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August 17, 2023 62 mins

Arthur Brooks has held many roles in his life: professional French horn player in Barcelona, leader of the American Enterprise Institute, and now a professor of happiness at Harvard. The author and social scientist has a new book on the subject, “Build the Life You Want,” co-authored with Oprah Winfrey, coming out in September 2023. Arthur joined David to talk about the science of happiness, the relationship between new technology ...

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August 10, 2023 55 mins
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August 3, 2023 58 mins

After seven years as the host of CNN’s “Inside Politics,” John King is stepping away from the anchor desk and returning to his reporter roots, traveling the country to talk to Americans across the political spectrum ahead of the 2024 presidential election. John joined David to talk about his start in journalism at the Associated Press and his move to television, his multiple sclerosis diagnosis and his decision to speak out about t...

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July 27, 2023 61 mins

After graduating from Harvard Law School, Adrian Perkins decided to forgo the traditional job at a top-tier law firm, instead opting to return to his hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana as a candidate for mayor. After one term, punctuated by the Covid-19 pandemic, Perkins fell short in his reelection campaign, but he hasn't lost his dedication to his hometown. On the latest Axe Files, Adrian talked about his “superhero” mother, his t...

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July 20, 2023 56 mins

As a child, Sen. Tammy Baldwin suffered a months-long illness, leaving her with a preexisting condition that made obtaining health insurance impossible. The experience inspired her to pursue public office, first locally from her home in Madison, Wisconsin, and later as a member of the U.S. Senate. Sen. Baldwin joined David to talk about healthcare, tackling the mental health and opioid abuse crises, GOP culture wars, and working ac...

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July 13, 2023 59 mins

Historian and writer Jon Meacham’s most recent book, “And There Was Light: Abraham Lincoln and the American Struggle,” dives deep into Lincoln and the why behind the actions of America’s 16th president, from personal to political. Jon joined David to talk about Lincoln’s anti-slavery roots, what Lincoln can teach us about the current political moment, the moral decisions we face as a country, and what qualities make a great America...

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This week The Axe Files team is sharing an episode of CNN’s The Assignment with Audie Cornish. One year after Roe v Wade was overturned by the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, we were wondering: what is happening to people caught up in the web of changing law? It's been a tumultuous and uncertain era for reproductive rights, so this week The Assignment checks in on the activists at the frontline defending women who are being crimina...

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June 29, 2023 59 mins

Lifelong Republican Bill Gates was working as a lawyer and serving on the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors in Arizona’s most populous county when the 2020 election upended his life. Maricopa County became a hub of the Stop the Steal movement, and Bill, who defended the safety and legitimacy of the election, became a top target. Bill joined David to talk about navigating vicious attacks from those within his own party, the toll ...

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This week, we’re revisiting a 2018 interview with Vladimir Kara-Murza, a Russian opposition activist who was sentenced to 25 years in prison in April 2023 after speaking out against the war in Ukraine. Vladimir was just 10 years old during the Russian Democratic Revolution in 1991. Witnessing a revolution was a formative experience that led to a lifetime of pro-democracy activism. In 2018, Vladimir sat down with David to discuss Pu...

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June 15, 2023 52 mins

Since leaving office in 2016, former President Barack Obama has been a careful observer of the ebbs and flows of democracy around the globe, speaking out on the subject and building coalitions through the Obama Foundation. President Obama joined David to talk about the state of democracy at home and abroad, how the economy and technological advances impact politics and polarization, the weaponization of the word woke, race, and his...

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June 8, 2023 60 mins

CNN’s Kaitlan Collins arrived at college as a chemistry major, but the die-hard Crimson Tide fan soon realized life in a science lab was not her calling. After scouring the university’s course book, she decided to give journalism a try. Now, at just 31 years old, she is about to take over anchor duties for the 9 p.m. hour on CNN. Kaitlan joined David to talk about how her upbringing in Prattville, Alabama informs her reporting, her...

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June 1, 2023 59 mins

As a child, Michael Wilbon was allowed to argue about sports and politics at the dinner table—as long as he backed up his point. That early training helped launch Michael into a distinguished career as a sportswriter, columnist, and co-host of ESPN’s “Pardon the Interruption.” Michael joined David to talk about growing up on Chicago’s South Side, joining the Washington Post in the afterglow of Watergate, the central role of sports ...

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May 25, 2023 59 mins

Arizona Senator Mark Kelly never planned to go into politics. But in the years after his wife, former Rep. Gabby Giffords, was shot in an assassination attempt, the former astronaut decided to put aside his space suit and run for office. Sen. Kelly joined David to talk about gun violence, moving forward in the wake of Gabby’s injury, immigration and the Arizona border, the debt ceiling, and the importance of believing in science.


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May 18, 2023 55 mins

Former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson sued the network’s longtime boss Roger Ailes for sexual harassment in 2016, catapulting her into a broader fight for women’s rights. Since leaving Fox News, Gretchen has become a force in advocating for safer workplaces for women and other marginalized groups through her organization, Lift Our Voices, which has helped enact legislation banning forced arbitration and non-disclosure agreements. G...

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