The Axe Files with David Axelrod-logo

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.

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.


United States


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.




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. To learn more about how CNN protects listener privacy, visit...


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...


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. To learn more about how CNN...


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...


Presenting Margins of Error

This week, we’re bringing you an episode of CNN’s Margins of Error. It's been a year since Americans waited on edge to find out the winner in the strangest election of our lifetimes. CNN’s Harry Enten revisits that night and gives us a behind-the-scenes look at how election night turned into election week. He'll also explore the repercussions of the delayed count and how we can avoid drawn out election results in the future. To learn more about how CNN protects listener privacy, visit...


Ep. 465 — Russell Moore

Public theologian Russell Moore has long encouraged evangelical Christians to focus on practicing religion rather than engaging in culture wars, something he found increasingly difficult under former President Donald Trump. Moore left his leadership post at the Southern Baptist Convention earlier this year and now works for Christianity Today. He joined David to talk about how working for a conservative Democratic congressman on Capitol Hill reaffirmed his belief in the possibility of...


Ep. 464—Anderson Cooper

Anderson Cooper is now a well-known CNN anchor, but he got his start in journalism armed with just a camcorder and a fake press pass. Cooper is also part of the storied Vanderbilt family, which he writes about in his latest book Vanderbilt: The Rise and Fall of an American Dynasty. He joined David to talk about the corrosive power of money and how its effects can ripple through generations, his mother’s life and her capacity for overcoming trauma, losing his father at 10 years old, and how...


Ep. 463—Evan Osnos

When journalist Evan Osnos returned to the US in 2013 after eight years in China, he experienced somewhat of a culture shock. He found the underpinnings of the country shaken, so he set off to find out why. Evan joined David to discuss his journey from small-town newspaper photographer to The New Yorker writer, how technology has made China more autocratic, the power of money in politics, how President Joe Biden defies expectations, and what he learned traversing the country, chronicled in...


Ep. 462 — Robert Costa

Journalist Robert Costa is known for his in-depth reporting on former president Donald Trump and for co-authoring a new book with legendary journalist Bob Woodward, but his first claim to fame was convincing John Mayer to play at his high school prom. Robert joined David to talk about his years covering the Republican Party, the ongoing threats he sees to U.S. democracy, what he learned about reporting from Bob Woodward, and their book, Peril. To learn more about how CNN protects listener...


Ep. 461 — Monica Lewinsky

Monica Lewinsky has been many things: White House intern, media punching bag, writer, anti-bullying activist, and now, producer. She talked to David about her upbringing and her parents' tumultuous divorce, her struggles with mental health following her affair with former President Bill Clinton, the dangers of social media, and how she took back control of her own story, most recently as a producer on “Impeachment: American Crime Story.” To learn more about how CNN protects listener privacy,...


Presenting Total Recall: California's Political Circus

This week we’re bringing you an episode of CNN's Total Recall: California’s Political Circus. You probably remember that Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected Governor of California. But do you remember how it all happened? The blackouts, the budget and of course, the car tax! CNN’s Chief Political Correspondent, Dana Bash, takes you back to the origins of the 2003 California Recall and talks with Schwarzenegger and the man he beat, Gray Davis to learn why this election became such a circus. To...


Ep. 460 — Ken Burns

Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns can pinpoint the exact moment he knew he wanted to be a storyteller. After witnessing his father cry during a film, he understood the power of an impactful story. That, plus the tragic death of his mother which he calls the defining moment of his life, spurred a passion for storytelling that unearths the past and “wakes the dead.” He joined David to talk about his difficult upbringing, what he loves about history, why it’s impossible to disentangle race from...


Ep. 459 — Clarissa Ward

Twenty years ago, as Clarissa Ward watched the 9/11 attacks unfold on television, she experienced a profound sense of shock and shame that she did not have a better grasp on what was happening in the world. In that moment she felt compelled to pursue journalism in order to bring to life the shared human experience, and since then she has reported from the front lines of conflict zones around the world. Ward, who is CNN’s Chief International Correspondent, joined David to talk about her...


Ep. 458 — Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman

After a behind-the-scenes career in the military that led to the National Security Council, retired Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman found himself thrust into the spotlight as a key witness in the first impeachment trial of President Trump. He joined David to talk about his family history and childhood as an immigrant in New York, his thoughts on the Afghanistan withdrawal and Afghan refugees coming to America, Trump and his relationship with Russia, and his new memoir, Here, Right Matters. To...


Ep. 457 — Dr. Leana Wen

Dr. Leana Wen has become a leading voice offering straightforward guidance on the Covid-19 pandemic, but her journey to professional prominence was anything but simple. Her family left China—where her father was frequently jailed as a political dissident—when she was a child, arriving in the US with just $40 in their possession. She joined David to discuss the incredible story of her family’s journey to America and the struggles they faced once in the country, her roles as a physician and...


Ep. 456 — Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi

Shortly after coming to America, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi’s family hit a financial rough patch. For a time, the family lived in public housing and relied on food stamps, a boost that instilled in Rep. Krishnamoorthi a lifelong appreciation for the US government and a desire to give back. He joined David to talk about what he sees as the US’s disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan, his journey from engineering student to US Congressman and how the job has grown more dangerous in the past few...


Ep. 455 — Anne Applebaum

Journalist Anne Applebaum began her career as a stringer in Poland in the late 1980s reporting on the fall of communism, an assignment that led her to drive to Germany when she heard the Berlin Wall was coming down. She has written extensively on the former Soviet Union while becoming a prominent conservative journalist in the U.S., U.K. and Poland. She joined David to talk about how her early exposure to authoritarian governments shaped her political ideology, how autocratic leaders create...


Ep. 454 — Amy Walter

Cook Political Report editor-in-chief and publisher Amy Walter grew up in a bipartisan household. Her mother was a Democrat, and her father was a Republican, a dynamic that her mother said primed Amy for a career in political journalism. Amy joined David to talk about running a contentious congressional campaign at just 25 years old, the importance of approaching interviews with empathy and curiosity, diminished trust in American institutions, and what—if anything—the Ohio special election...


Best of The Axe Files: Megan Rapinoe

With the Tokyo Olympics under way, we revisit a conversation from 2020 with Megan Rapinoe, captain of the U.S. women’s national soccer team and Olympic gold medalist. At the time, Rapinoe was skeptical about the future of the 2020 games. Megan joined David to talk about growing up in a small conservative town, finding and forging her identity, her decorated soccer career and World Cup wins, and using her platform to engage in progressive activism: from LGBTQ and racial justice to equal pay,...


Ep. 453 — Stephanie Cutter

Democratic strategist Stephanie Cutter says she has a fearless streak. This fearlessness gave her the confidence to walk into Gov. Mario Cuomo’s office asking for a job in her early twenties and to later successfully execute the virtual 2020 Democratic National Convention during a pandemic. Stephanie joined David to talk about her upbringing in a small town in Massachusetts, her close relationship with the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, working for former President Bill Clinton during the Monica...