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.
California Rep. Katie Porter is best known for wielding a whiteboard during congressional hearings, stumping CEOs and government officials on how their actions impact everyday Americans. As a single mother who grew up on a farm in Iowa, Rep. Porter has said she entered Congress with a different perspective than many of her colleagues on what exactly an everyday American is, inspiring her jump to politics. She joined David during a live recording to talk about her path from law professor to Congress member, her roots in Iowa politics, her passion for consumer protection issues, how she made the whiteboard famous, and her new book, “I Swear: Politics is Messier Than My Minivan.”
May 4, 2023
Chicago mayor-elect Brandon Johnson started his campaign trailing in the polls with little name recognition among Chicago voters. But with the help of the Chicago Teachers Union, the former teacher and CTU organizer built a progressive movement, ultimately winning the mayor’s race. Mayor-elect Johnson joined David to talk about growing up as one of 10 children, his introduction to politics, making the shift from teaching to organizing, his philosophy on public safety and policing, and what he sees for Chicago’s future.
Apr 27, 2023
Former Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson recently announced he’s running for president in 2024. While Gov. Hutchinson has less name recognition than other Republican primary contenders—primarily\ Donald Trump—he hopes to draw a contrast between himself and other candidates by eschewing outrage and focusing instead on bringing back civility and traditional conservative values to the GOP. After serving in Congress and holding leadership roles at the Drug Enforcement Administration and Department of...Show more Homeland Security, Gov. Hutchinson hopes his track record will speak for itself. Gov. Hutchinson joined David to talk about growing up in rural Arkansas, his stance on abortion, why he thinks improving mental health is the best way to combat gun violence, why he is critical of Alvin Bragg's prosecutorial judgement, and why he believes Trump can’t win in 2024.
Apr 20, 2023
From trying his hand as a monk at a monastery in Sri Lanka to reporting from Prague following the collapse of the Soviet Union, former reporter Neil King has traveled all over the world. In March 2021, he set out on a different kind of journey, walking from his home in Washington, D.C. to New York City. Along the way, he hoped to explore “a founding slice” of the country and take the pulse of present-day America. Neil joined David to talk about his decades as a reporter, his battle with esophageal cancer, the people he met and lessons he learned on his 26-day walk, and his new book, “American Ramble: A Walk of Memory and Renewal.”
Apr 13, 2023
This week, we revisit a 2017 conversation with CNN Chief International Anchor Christiane Amanpour. She joined David in London to discuss growing up in Iran during the revolution, her experience covering the first Gulf War, her relationship with John F. Kennedy Jr., the refugee crisis, and much more.
Apr 6, 2023
Theo Epstein made a name for himself in baseball by helping teams facing significant championship droughts, like the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs, capture World Series wins using data and analytics. He now works for Major League Baseball, where he helped develop new rules intended to move the game away from data-driven play and improve the flow and entertainment value of the game. For opening day, Theo talked with David about the new rules this baseball season, the impact they’ll have on players and fans, and why he believes they’ll help the game “get closer to the very best version of baseball.”
Mar 30, 2023
CISA Director Jen Easterly got an early taste of government as a sixth grader when her class was featured in a commercial for then-presidential candidate Ronald Reagan. The ad never made it to air, but Director Easterly continued in public service. After spending decades in the Army and the private sector, Director Easterly now leads the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, or CISA. As head of CISA, she works to protect against cyberattacks on everything from U.S. election infr...Show moreastructure to systems Americans use every day, like water, schools, and hospitals. Director Easterly joined David to talk about what she believes makes a good leader, cyber threats from Russia and China, the potential downsides of A.I. and TikTok, and why cybersecurity needs to be a collaborative effort.
Mar 23, 2023
Since childhood, journalist John Hendrickson has lived with a stutter: wrestling with it, searching for escapes from it, and working to accept it. John, who rose to national prominence after interviewing then-presidential candidate Joe Biden about his own stutter in 2019, recently wrote a book about his experiences and the science behind stuttering. John joined David to talk about living with a stutter, his work as a journalist, interviewing Biden, and reexamining his own relationship with his stutter in his book “Life on Delay: Making Peace with a Stutter.”
Mar 16, 2023
In high school, Michael McFaul developed an interest in the Soviet Union that would eventually lead to him serving as US Ambassador to Russia from 2012 to 2014. Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year, McFaul emerged as a vocal supporter of Ukraine. McFaul joined David to talk about his work advising on sanctions against Russia, why he believes that the US should go all-in on military aid to Ukraine, how Russian President Vladimir Putin could claim victory, how much time Ukraine has to turn the tide of the war, and his skepticism that Putin will resort to using a nuclear weapon.
Mar 9, 2023
Just days after he was sworn in to Congress, former GOP Rep. Peter Meijer of Michigan watched in horror as protestors stormed the Capitol. Deeply unsettled by the experience, he voted to impeach President Trump, opening a lane for a Trump-endorsed primary opponent to defeat Meijer in 2022. He joined David to talk about his Michigan-famous family name, his time in the military, the importance of defending Ukraine, his decision to vote to impeach Trump, the importance of long-term thinking in politics, and a potential Senate run.
Mar 2, 2023