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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.




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...


Trump’s response to unrest raises concerns among those trained to detect democratic regression

Earlier this week, the country watched as the U.S. president walked across Lafayette Square outside the White House to stand in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church, hold a Bible and take a photo. In a speech from the Rose Garden moments earlier, President Trump threatened to deploy troops to control protests if state and local authorities did not immediately regain control of their streets. For Trump to make that trek to the church, flanked by the secretary of defense and the chairman of...


Trump threatened military action to quell protests. Can he do that?

Protests across the United States have intensified since last week over the death of George Floyd, a black man whose final gasps of“I can’t breathe” while in police custody, were caught on video in Minneapolis. Many protests have been peaceful, but in several cities, tensions have escalated and violence has erupted. With unrest growing, President Trump decided to address the nation from the White House’s Rose Garden on Monday in a televised speech. Moments before he spoke, though, police...


Public health partisanship confronts a new reality: The virus is surging in rural America

This week, the United States reached a grim milestone: Covid-19 deaths surpassed 100,000 in this country. In recent weeks, the geographic areas and the communities this deadly virus touches, have begun to shift. The Washington Post analyzed case data and interviews with public health professionals in several states to find that the pandemic, which first struck in major cities, is now increasingly moving into the country’s rural areas. Rural America faces unique and significant challenges...


How Trump is leveraging the presidency to campaign against Biden

This presidential campaign season is unlike any other in history. I know, that sounds like something people in world of politics say a lot. But this time, in 2020, during a global pandemic, the campaign trail looks dramatically different — and for now, mostly empty. Former vice president Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, has spent the past few months holding virtual events, largely from his basement. President Trump, meanwhile, has resumed some travel, though in an official...


Politics, pressure and pleas: The twisting case of Michael Flynn and the Justice Department

Last week, the Justice Department, led by Attorney General William P. Barr, moved to drop charges against President Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Flynn has also been seeking to undo his guilty plea since January, and newly released documents have given him the chance, according to his lawyers. As a refresher, Flynn, back in 2017, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. The new documents show the FBI...


The president’s desperate push to reopen America

After weeks of stay-at-home orders and business closures, some parts of the United States are beginning to reopen. Since late March, President Trump has grappled with the White House’s guidance for when and how the reopening process should work. At the end of March, Trump agreed to extend strict social distancing guidelines for another month, despite his early hopes that the country could reopen by Easter. These days, though, Trump is celebrating the reopening of some states and is...


The Postal Service is in dire need. Trump wants to block the loan that could save them.

The coronavirus pandemic has left a tremendous number of businesses across the country without the revenue they’re used to. For the U.S. Postal Service, its losses in revenue — both from the pandemic and long predating it — present a different kind of challenge. The Postal Service isn’t a private company, it’s a federal agency, so the ways to solve its financial problems are murkier. While Congress has stepped in to include a $10 billion loan to the Postal Service in the Cares Act relief...


The U.S. is spending trillions to save the economy. Where does all that money come from?

Trillions of dollars have been injected into the U.S. economy since March. Late last month, Congress passed a $2 trillion relief bill, the Cares Act, designed to help the country cope with the economic devastation it has faced since the novel coronavirus outbreak began. But those trillions weren’t enough. New legislation expected to pass in Congress on Thursday adds $484 billion to that total. These funds are allocated for small-business recovery, hospitals and coronavirus testing. As our...


Freezing funding, adjourning Congress, reopening states. What are the limits on Trump’s power?

Each week, our country’s response to the novel coronavirus pandemic presents new questions. Some of those questions are about the role of the president in a crisis, or the role of governors and local leaders, or the role of international organizations, or even the role of Congress. This particular week raised questions about all of those things. President Trump early in the week said that he has“total authority” to order the reopening of state’s economies. Though, on a call with governors...


A president’s push for an unproven cure

As the country continues to battle the spread of the novel coronavirus, many are desperately in search of answers, solutions and treatment options. In search himself, for something of a cure, President Trump has repeatedly touted one particular drug as the likely savior for covid-19 patients: hydroxychloroquine. At this point, hydroxychloroquine is an unproven treatment for covid-19. It’s still in the testing stages as a treatment for the virus, it can have dangerous side effects for some,...


States are competing for life-saving medical equipment. Who decides where it goes?

As the spread of the novel coronavirus grows in the United States, many states finds themselves in need of medical equipment like ventilators and protective equipment for health care workers. Yet, for most states getting said equipment has not been easy. Requests have begun to outweigh supply and many states complain there’s a lack of guidance about how they can secure life-saving supplies. Governors are making increasingly frantic requests to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for...


Rugged individualism vs. social distancing enforcement: Who can keep us home and how?

Much of life as we know it in the United States has drastically changed over recent weeks. Local and state authorities have closed many businesses and mandated that residents stay at home or limit the size of gatherings. Yet how these restrictions are implemented across the country varies widely. Furthermore, even in areas where restrictions can carry legal penalties, enforcement is rare. The United States is, of course, set up this way: States have the power to work independently, in...


U.S. elections are being tested like never before. What comes next?

The novel coronavirus pandemic has presented some serious challenges to the American electoral process. To solve these new public health challenges, some states have delayed primary voting. Other states have implemented social-distancing measures at polling locations, with mixed results. Others yet have geared up to increase mail-in ballot capacity. Each of these circumstances raise different issues for how voters can choose a candidate in this year’s primary election. Some Democratic...


The U.S. stumbled at the start of the coronavirus outbreak. Can we make up for lost time?

The World Health Organization has declared the novel coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic. The virus has spread in the United States, with new cases reported daily, deaths totaling more than three dozen, and an expanding list of large-scale cancellations, including the NBA, the NCAA tournaments and Broadway shows. In response, the Trump administration has taken various steps to limit the spread of the virus and to help a suffering economy. But those steps haven’t always gone so well. The...


Does the president have much power to control a viral outbreak?

Since it was first detected on the last day of 2019, coronavirus has infected tens of thousands of people around the world and has killed more than 3,000. The outbreak has triggered unprecedented quarantines, stock market upheaval and dangerous conspiracy theories. Most cases are mild, but health officials say the virus’s continued spread through the United States is inevitable. As the country and our health-care system prepares, a lot is still unknown. President Trump has repeatedly...