Sherrilyn Ifill is the President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. She joins David to talk about how growing up in the heat of the civil rights movement inspired her to practice law, the impact of the present reversing of Obama-era policies designed to protect marginalized groups, contemporary race relations in America, her take on Attorney General nominee Bill Barr’s confirmation hearing, and much more.
Miguel Cervantes, star of the blockbuster Hamilton play in Chicago, sits down with David to talk about the years he spent auditioning prior to landing the leading role, the cultural phenomenon the play has become, and his daughter’s unexpected diagnosis with epilepsy – the news of which coincided with his landing the titular role.
Ivo Daalder is the President of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and the former U.S. ambassador to NATO. He joins David to talk about the decline of American influence abroad and current vacuum in global leadership, the cost of abdicating international cooperation, how growing up outside of the U.S. impacted his appreciation for the United States, and his assessment of contemporary U.S. foreign policy in diplomatic hotspots including China, Russia, North Korea, Syria, and more. His new book, The Empty Throne: America’s Abdication of Global Leadership, explores the erosion of American diplomacy and its impact on the postwar world order.
J.B. Pritzker, governor-elect of Illinois, joins David to discuss the unique challenges facing the state and his priorities moving forward, what surprised him upon meeting Donald Trump during the December governors meeting, and – despite his family’s storied wealth – the poignant series of events that struck the Pritzker clan when J.B. was young.
Congressman Eric Swalwell represents California's 15th district and serves on the House Intelligence Committee. He joins the show to discuss the House investigation into Russia's meddling in the 2016 election, what the incoming Democratic majority in the House means for President Trump, and his ambitions for the 2020 race for president.
Howard Wolfson is the former Deputy Mayor of New York City, counselor to former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg, co-chief strategist and communications director on Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, and currently leads the Education division of Bloomberg Philanthropies. He joins David to talk about his mother’s battle with chronic depression, his decision to abandon journalism and pursue political strategy, the New York City media market and Donald Trump’s instinctive mastery of it, his experience working for Chuck Schumer, Hillary Clinton, and Michael Bloomberg – and the possibility of a 2020 presidential bid from Bloomberg.
Bryan Stevenson is a lawyer, activist, author, and founder/executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, a non-profit organization that provides legal aid to prisoners lacking effective representation. He joins David to talk about his experience growing up in a segregated county in southern Delaware, the national narrative of racial difference prevailing even after the Civil War, its implications on present-day politics, and his personal mission to provide legal aid to those disenfranchised by the U.S. criminal justice system. His best-selling book, "Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption," chronicles the true stories of inmates on death row that Stevenson represented.
Jeff Zucker, president of CNN, sits down with David to talk about how a rejection from Harvard Law School paved the way for his meteoric rise as a media executive; his break up with NBC; the health scares that nearly claimed his life; and his unique perspective on Donald Trump–whose reality TV career he helped launch. Zucker shares his philosophy of the modern news model, and CNN’s role within it, in the age of Trump – and much more.
Amanda Carpenter is a conservative commentator, author, and former senior communications advisor and speechwriter to Senator Ted Cruz. She sits down with David to discuss the challenges of being raised by a single mother, the sports injury that fatefully led her to journalism, Trump’s rebranding of the Republican Party, her take on Beto O’Rourke’s unlikely campaign against Sen. Cruz, and more. Her new book, Gaslighting America: Why We Love It When Trump Lies to Us, draws on her experience as a top aide to Sen. Cruz to deconstruct Trump’s manipulative “fake narrative” strategies and prescribes ways in which to withstand it.
Former President of the United States Barack Obama sits down with David in Hyde Park for a special live taping of the Axe Files. Their conversation touches on the Obama's life in the Hyde Park community, the sacrifices his family made for his political career, his biggest regret from his time in the presidency, the politics of race in America, increasing political polarization, and much more.
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor joins David on the Axe Files on CNN to discuss the shifting dynamics on the bench after Brett Kavanaugh’s bitter confirmation battle, her personal ties to Puerto Rico and whether the response to Hurricane Maria was adequate, and her journey from the Bronx to the highest court in the land.
Mark Salter is a longtime advisor and speechwriter to Senator John McCain. He joins David to talk about the early literary influences that shaped both his and his late boss’s political philosophies, the selection of Sarah Palin as McCain’s vice presidential pick and its broader political impact, the life and legacy of John McCain, and why Salter believes Trumpism will lead to the extinction of the Republican Party as we know it.
Gloria Borger is a political pundit, journalist, and columnist who currently commentates as a chief political analyst for CNN. She sits down with David the day after Tuesday’s midterm elections to share her take on the outcome and why she believes we are experiencing a realignment in American politics. The conversation also spans Borger’s foray into journalism and the formative experiences she’s faced throughout her life and career: from entering Colgate University as part of the first class of female students, to the challenges she’s faced as a woman in political media.
Jen Psaki is the former White House Communications Director and White House Deputy Press Secretary under President Obama. She joins David after the midterms to discuss the implications of the results and their impact on the political landscape as well as Psaki’s personal political journey: from knocking on doors for Governor Vilsack in Iowa to helming the Obama communications shop in the White House.