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Can He Do That?

News & Politics Podcasts

“Can He Do That?” is The Washington Post’s politics podcast, exploring the powers and limitations of the American presidency, and what happens when they're tested. Led by host Allison Michaels, each episode asks a new question about this extraordinary moment in American history and answers with insight into how our government works, how to understand ongoing events, and the implications when branches of government collide.

“Can He Do That?” is The Washington Post’s politics podcast, exploring the powers and limitations of the American presidency, and what happens when they're tested. Led by host Allison Michaels, each episode asks a new question about this extraordinary moment in American history and answers with insight into how our government works, how to understand ongoing events, and the implications when branches of government collide.


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“Can He Do That?” is The Washington Post’s politics podcast, exploring the powers and limitations of the American presidency, and what happens when they're tested. Led by host Allison Michaels, each episode asks a new question about this extraordinary moment in American history and answers with insight into how our government works, how to understand ongoing events, and the implications when branches of government collide.




How 2020 races across the country lay the groundwork for a president’s influence

In the upcoming 2020 election, 35 U.S. Senate seats and 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are up for grabs. Plus, 44 states with seats in their state legislative chambers are also on the ballot. Many of these races have an impact on the agenda of the next president and the future of the American political landscape. Yes, the makeup of Congress will, of course, affect the way the next president can govern. Parties in control of each house of Congress can help a president carry...


The 2020 election is facing big challenges. Which ones matter most?

The 2020 election and its lead-up have not exactly been your run-of-the-mill election season. American elections often face various challenges, but this year that list of challenges is quite long. First, the world is still in the middle of a pandemic. That’s meant that many states have ramped up mail-in voting, added ballot drop boxes or laid out plans for safety measures around in-person voting. But those pivots and new plans have meant some errors and mix-ups. And some of these voting...


A week after we learned of Trump’s covid-19 diagnosis, why don’t we know more?

For months, President Trump avoided the novel coronavirus. He did this even without taking basic steps to prevent the virus’s spread, like wearing masks and staying away from large indoor crowds. But, last week, that changed. Trump told the American people via tweet very early Friday morning, that he had tested positive for the coronavirus. Later that day, he was hospitalized at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. On Monday, after he’d been administered a cocktail of steroids...


What happens if Trump refuses to accept a loss?

President Trump is not exactly known for his adherence to Washington norms. And his ongoing rhetoric around perhaps the most significant norm of American democracy — the peaceful transition of power — brushes against centuries-old precedent. Though we’ve faced several electoral challenges in our country’s short history, presidential power has always passed peacefully from one commander in chief to the next. This year, though, Trump has declined to agree to accept the results of the 2020...


How the Supreme Court became the most trusted branch, and how electoral politics might undo that

The passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg last week, has created a vacancy on the bench. President Trump and the Republicans have since taken steps toward quickly confirming a conservative replacement for Ginsburg, who was a liberal icon. Trump is expected to announce a nominee late this week, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has suggested confirmation hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee could begin mid-October. Republicans hope the Supreme Court...


Is the federal government to blame for wildfires gone out of control?

Reporter Seung Min Kim on how Trump’s refusal to acknowledge human-caused climate change affects the country’s wildfire management and response plans. Plus, environmental analysis professor Char Miller on who's really responsible for fire mitigation.


The Justice Dept. intervenes on behalf of Trump in defamation case. What happens next?

The Justice Department on Tuesday intervened in the defamation lawsuit brought by a woman who says President Trump raped her years ago, moving the matter to federal court and signaling it wants to make the U.S. government — rather than Trump himself — the defendant in the case. In this segment from "Post Reports," Matt Zapatosky talks about the unusual move, and where it fits into the larger story of Trump's Justice Department.


Two different stories of American unrest

Jacob Blake was shot seven times in the back by a Kenosha, Wis., police officer in late August. Since that shooting, Kenosha has been the site of unrest, protests, vandalism and violence. Days after the protests and unrest began, 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse traveled a short trip from his home to Kenosha where self-declared militia members and armed counterprotesters had been appearing. Rittenhouse was armed with a rifle. Later, authorities say Rittenhouse shot three protesters, killing...


Trump suggested sending law enforcement to the polls. Can he do that?

Faith in the U.S. electoral system is one of the most important fundamentals of this country’s democracy. And this year, it’s being tested in unprecedented ways. Some of those challenges are emerging from the rhetoric of the president himself. President Trump has discredited mail-in voting, suggested rampant voter fraud and said he might not accept the results of the election. Most recently, Trump has threatened to use law enforcement officers to patrol polling places. In an interview...


Postal problems persist. (But your mail-in ballot is probably safe.)

President Trump’s rhetoric about the Postal Service has grown bolder. He’s said that if he stops the Democrats from providing emergency funding to the Postal Service, it’s harder for them to process a surge in mail-in ballots. And according to Trump himself, he wants less mail-in voting, because he thinks too much vote by mail may cost him the election. Meanwhile, a new postmaster general has taken over the agency. Louis DeJoy, previously a logistics executive, was named to head the Postal...


How an extraordinary election season affects Trump’s reelection chances

Usually, in presidential election years of the past, August marks a new phase in election season. Conventions wrap up, rallies and events pick up on the campaign trail and candidates debate in front of large audiences, all leading up to the moment voters go to the polls. But this year, pretty much none of those things will happen in the way that we’re used to. The novel coronavirus fundamentally changed this election year. Many of the traditional events still populate the calendar between...


TikTok flip-flop: What’s the president’s power over foreign companies?

If you’d never heard of TikTok before the coronavirus pandemic sent us all into our homes for months, you’ve probably heard of it now. With little to do at home, millions of Americans turned to TikTok to create and watch short, fun videos of mostly teenagers mostly dancing, lip syncing or pranking their parents. While this social video app may seem harmless when you’re somehow mindlessly scrolling through hours of 30-second antics, the Trump administration insists it might not be so...


How America votes is inherently unpredictable. So why do polling?

In the run-up to any modern presidential election, assessing a candidate’s successes and failures has served as fodder for political pundits, analysts and campaign advisers. And in part, those assessments of who is winning and which messages are working are drawn from a whole sprawling effort designed to take the pulse of the American voter: political polling. These days, there are public polls, private polls and polling shops out of news organizations, universities and research centers....


A double down on federal force, a do-over on coronavirus

The United States is in search of leadership on many significant challenges we face at this difficult moment in our country. And on two major issues — the handling of the coronavirus pandemic and protests against racism and police brutality — most Americans are dissatisfied with the leadership they’ve seen thus far. As cases rise across the country and fears persist, a Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 60 percent of Americans disapprove of President Trump’s handling of the...


Conventions vs. covid-19: Trump’s push for a spectacle while the virus surges

The 2020 presidential nominating conventions will look little like the political mega-events we’ve seen in this country for the past few decades. The novel coronavirus pandemic has made the notion of huge stadiums full of cheering supporters plus countless meetings, rallies and after parties, unadvisable under U.S. public health guidelines. Now, for both parties, rejiggering their conventions has been a significant challenge. Democrats have decided to take a largely virtual approach to...


Will the Court’s decision on electors prevent (at least some) election mayhem?

Much of American democracy runs on precedent. How things have worked in the past helps us understand how they ought to work now. Many parts of our democracy function because years of established norms guide them. But sometimes that precedent and those standards face the courts — a chance to take long-standing norms and codify them into law. We saw one of those moments at the Supreme Court this week with a vote on the role of electors in our presidential elections. Presidential electors...


July 4 special: 'The Framers would not recognize the modern presidency.’

Over the past few years making the“Can He Do That?” podcast, a few episodes have stuck with us. In particular, the episodes that keenly capture the role of the U.S. president that offer particular insight into the ways the presidency was designed to work in our country and how that design is incredible and also flawed. Now, we are bringing back one of those episodes. This show, which originally aired on July 4 last year, is a deep look at what the Founding Fathers wanted the American...


Virus cases are surging in the U.S. Is our government better prepared now?

In the United States, novel coronavirus infections set a single-day national record Wednesday. For now it seems like deaths are not growing at the same pace as cases, but it’s clear that this virus is not contained and this pandemic is far from over. Yet momentum behind a federal response seems to be fading. The task force is convening less often, federal funding to some test sites has been depleted, and President Trump has said that the country will not shut down again, even as some states...


An ‘erratic’ and ‘stunningly uninformed’ commander in chief: Inside Bolton’s book

John Bolton, former national security adviser to President Trump, wrote a book,“The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir.” The book offers a portrait of President Trump as an erratic and ignorant leader who often places his own personal whims above the national interest. But whether Americans will get to read the book is the subject of an escalating legal battle between Bolton and the Justice Department. The White House says the book contains classified material. Bolton’s attorney...


Public sentiment on police reform has shifted dramatically. Will it matter?

Public outcry and calls for police reform have erupted across the country, with movements taking aim at not just policing tactics, but also broader racial inequities embedded in American life. Many of our nation’s leaders are responding to those calls for reform. House and Senate Democrats on Tuesday united behind federal legislation, the Justice in Policing of 2020 Act. The act bans certain tactics such as like chokeholds and would make it easier to hold officers accountable for...