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.


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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.




Ep. 569 — Bill Bradley

Bill Bradley stands as a rare figure, achieving Hall of Fame status in both sports and politics. As a former New Jersey Senator and presidential candidate, Bradley's impact on public life spans decades. Before his esteemed political career, he left an enduring legacy in college basketball, the Olympics, and as a vital member of the historic early '70s New York Knicks. Throughout both careers Bill Bradley earned a reputation for thoughtful reflection. David sat down will Bill this week to talk about his documentary, his life, and lessons learned along the way. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit


Ep. 568 — Thomas Friedman

For over four decades, Thomas Friedman, the Pulitzer Prize-winning luminary renowned for his insightful columns in The New York Times and a friend of The Axe Files, has been a steadfast voice delving into the intricate tapestry of the Middle East. His profound understanding of the region's nuances is unparalleled, making him an invaluable ally in navigating its tumultuous landscape. As the harrowing conflict in Gaza persists, David thought it was time to sit down for some wisdom from his old friend. With the omnipresent specter of social media threats and the ever-evolving challenges of modern diplomacy, their conversation couldn't be timelier. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit


Ep. 567 — Sen. Raphael Warnock

Many individuals have two jobs, but none quite like Raphael Warnock. On most weekdays, he patrols the halls of Congress as the Senior Senator from the state of Georgia. However, he also holds the position of senior pastor at the storied Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. Preaching from the same pulpit that his idol, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., once graced—a man he shares much in common with. Last week, David sat down with Reverend Warnock, Senator Warnock, to discuss his extraordinary journey from the housing projects of Savannah to these esteemed positions, and how he utilizes his platform to further Dr. King's social justice mission. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit


Ep. 566 — Stephanie Murphy

Stephanie Murphy truly is a great American story. Born in Vietnam a few years after the war, she and her family fled tyranny and were rescued at sea by the U.S. Navy. Raised in a trailer park in Virginia, she worked her way through college and graduate school. Post 9/11, she became a young star at the Department of Defense, working as an analyst at the highest levels of the Pentagon. Later, she was elected to three terms in Congress where she stood out from the partisans, ideologues, and bloviators, earning a reputation as an earnest and incisive problem solver. In the end, however, Stephanie Murphy may be most remembered for her service on the fateful January 6th committee. She joined David to talk about all of this, and more. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit


Ep. 565 — Jeff Zeleny

Jeff Zeleny is one of America's very best political reporters, with decades of experience covering national campaigns for the Des Moines Register, the Chicago Tribune, The New York Times, ABC, and CNN. David sat down with him the day of the New Hampshire primary to glean his insights into the current race. Their conversation also delved into Zeleny's personal journey – from his Nebraska farm childhood influencing his reporting to overcoming a lifelong speech impediment, establishing him as one of America's premier broadcast journalists. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit


Ep. 564 — John Miller

John Miller has seen a lot. Born into the world of journalism as the son of a National Enquirer reporter, Miller's upbringing immersed him in a world of celebrities, club owners, mobsters, and law enforcement. Miller has spent his life toggling between television, journalism, and law enforcement. He has covered some of the most significant national security and crime stories in the past four decades, including a rare interview with Osama bin Laden. Miller has also served at the highest levels of the FBI, the nation's two largest police departments, and the office of the Director of National Intelligence. He joined David to discuss his expansive career and share his unique perspective on the intersections of crime, journalism, and national security. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit


Ep. 563 — Mick Mulvaney

Mick Mulvaney knows a lot about the central players in the Republican nominating drama. With a background as the former budget director and acting chief of staff to Donald Trump, Mulvaney played a crucial role in the political landscape. Serving in Congress alongside Ron DeSantis and co-founding the House Freedom Caucus, he offers a unique perspective on party dynamics. Sharing anecdotes from his time as a South Carolina legislator alongside state representative Nikki Haley, Mulvaney joins David in a reflective conversation on the current state of the Republican race and the twists and turns of his own political journey. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit


The Axe Files presents All There Is with Anderson Cooper

This week The Axe Files team is sharing a special episode of Anderson Cooper’s extraordinary podcast All There Is. It’s a conversation about grief with President Joe Biden, who has faced more than his share in life. In it, he offers moving memories, lessons, and insights that are well worth hearing. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit


Best of The Axe Files: Madeleine Albright

This holiday season, we are revisiting a conversation from March 2017 with Madeleine Albright, the trailblazing American scholar, diplomat, and Secretary of State. She passed away in 2022, but her inspiring personal story and her extraordinary insights into this complicated world are timeless. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit


Ep. 562 — Cassidy Hutchinson

Before June 28th 2022, few Americans knew of Cassidy Hutchinson, the young former White House staffer. But that all changed that day when she appeared as a surprise star witness at a hastily called televised hearing of the House Select Committee on January 6th to share what she knew about the events leading up to and following the storming of Capitol Hill by a pro-trump mob. But her own life story is worth hearing and compellingly told in her new book “Enough”. Cassidy joined David to talk about her book, her time in the White House, her relationship with the Republican Party, and her life now. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit


Ep. 561 — Sara Paretsky

Although author Sara Paretsky grew up in Kansas, she said it was her summer in Chicago volunteering during the civil rights movement in 1966 that marked the “defining experience” on her life. Second wave feminism similarly influenced Sara, culminating in the creation of V.I. Warshawski, a stereotype-smashing, hardboiled, female private eye, who leads 22 of Sara’s crime novels. Sara joined David to talk about her family history, the recent rise in antisemitism, using her writing to give voice to the marginalized, the creation of V.I. Warshawski, and Sara’s work on abortion and women’s rights. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit


Ep. 560 — Tim Alberta

Journalist Tim Alberta grew up in the evangelical church and has watched with both concern and interest as some factions of the faith have changed over the years. Following the death of his pastor father, Tim decided to take a closer look at American evangelicalism. He published the book “The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory: American Evangelicals in an Age of Extremism” in December 2023. Tim joined David to talk about his new book, the profitability and politicization of the evangelical movement, the Moral Majority and the history of evangelical victimization, Donald Trump’s threat to religious freedom, and the real Nikki Haley. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit


Ep. 559 — Sen. Mallory McMorrow

Michigan State Sen. Mallory McMorrow always wanted to design cars. While that didn’t quite pan out—although she did spend some time working for Mattel on Hot Wheels—she has made a name for herself as a legislator after a speech she gave on the Michigan Senate floor rebuking GOP culture wars went viral in 2022. Sen. McMorrow joined David to talk about her Catholic upbringing rooted in service, her journey from industrial design to politics, the war in the Middle East and her disgust over politicization of human suffering, Michigan politics, and why she thinks Democrats need to prioritize good candidates at all levels of government. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit


Ep. 558 — Walter Massey

Dr. Walter Massey is a uniquely accomplished and fascinating American. Raised in the segregated South, Walter became one of only a handful of Black physicists in the 1960s and went on to hold leadership roles at laboratories, universities, and briefly Bank of America during the fallout of the 2008 financial crisis. He joined David to talk about his work bringing more minorities into the sciences, his involvement in civil rights as a professor, nuclear energy and scientific research, and Covid-19’s effect on trust in the scientific community. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit


Ep. 557 — Amb. David Pressman

Ambassador David Pressman has spent decades working on human rights, from positions at the White House to years as a human rights lawyer and nonprofit leader. He is continuing to fight for human rights and democracy as the current Ambassador to Hungary, but this time with added significance—he serves as a gay man in a country enacting increasingly anti-LGBT legislation. He joined David to talk about supporting LGBT rights in Hungary, how the state-run media has made him a target, and the threat of Vladimir Putin and Russia to democracy is Hungary and around the world. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit


Ep. 556 — Obama 15-Year Anniversary Special

This week, we’re bringing you a special episode of The Axe Files. In honor of the 15th anniversary of President Barack Obama’s historic election, David assembled a group of key players who made the 2008 Obama campaign happen. Jon Favreau, Robert Gibbs, Reggie Love, and Alyssa Mastromonaco joined David to talk about their memories of the campaign, share stories from the trail, and reflect on the historic nature of Nov. 4, 2008. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit


Ep. 555 — McKay Coppins

Journalist McKay Coppins has been linked to Sen. Mitt Romney since he covered Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign. As a fellow Mormon from Massachusetts, McKay was seen as a “Mormon whisperer” by his fellow reporters on the trail. Now, with the help of dozens of interviews and access to Romney’s journals and emails, McKay has written “Romney: A Reckoning.” He joined David to talk about his new book, the political evolution of Romney and the Republican Party, the omnipresence of Romney’s father in his life and career decisions, political idealism, Donald Trump, and Romney’s sense of legacy. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit


Ep. 554 — Ilana Dayan

Israeli journalist Ilana Dayan has anchored "Uvda,” the leading investigative news program on Israeli TV, for 30 years. She joined David this week to talk about the first 24 hours after Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, America’s involvement in the conflict, the helplessness felt in Israel, whether she believes the war will expand throughout the region, the political fallout for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud party following the attack, and where the Israeli-Palestinian relationship—as well as any hope for peace—goes from here. To learn more about how CNN protects listener privacy, visit Learn more about your ad choices. Visit


Ep. 553 — Walter Isaacson

Writer Walter Isaacson grew up in a family full of engineers and spent his spare time making radios and televisions sets. While he became a journalist and author instead, his interest in technology and science remained and has informed his selection of biography subjects, from Albert Einstein to Steve Jobs. Walter joined David to talk about his latest biography on Elon Musk and Musk's “epic hero visions of himself,” his technological genius, how Musk’s father’s treatment of him affected his personality, the openness and transparency Musk allowed Isaacson, and criticism Isaacson received for getting too close to Musk during the writing of his book, "Elon Musk." To learn more about how CNN protects listener privacy, visit Learn more about your ad choices. Visit


Ep. 552 — David French

David French has held many roles: religious-liberties attorney, army officer, writer and political commentator, and outspoken critic of Donald Trump. French joined David to talk about the dissonance he felt in adhering to his conservative Christian values in the face of a changing GOP, his decision to leave the Republican Party in 2016, the hate and threats he and his family endured for criticizing Trump, his views on same-sex marriage and abortion, his steadfast belief in the First Amendment, and why he is greatly concerned for America today. To learn more about how CNN protects listener privacy, visit Learn more about your ad choices. Visit