Can He Do That? artwork

Can He Do That?

240 episodes - English - Latest episode: 14 days ago - ★★★★ - 4.4K ratings

“Can He Do That?” is The Washington Post’s politics podcast, exploring presidential power in the face of weakened institutions, a divided electorate and changing political norms. 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 so much about the current state of American life and the country’s politics is unlike anything we’ve seen before.

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How a voting law ignited a culture war

April 08, 2021 18:19

The political power of culture wars Republicans ramp up attacks on corporations over Georgia voting law, threaten‘consequences’ The Georgia voting law, explained

Biden’s big bet on big government

April 01, 2021 19:17

How did Biden become a president with an ambitious agenda for major government expansion? Where will his proposals position him in history? And is he likely to accomplish much of what he’s put forth? The Post’s Dan Balz weighs in. Related reading and episodes Biden is betting on bigger government. The pandemic may be helping him. Biden signed a $1.9 trillion bill. How much relief will Americans feel?

Do presidents have the power to stop mass shootings?

March 25, 2021 16:10

After tragedies in Colorado and Georgia, Biden has pledged to tighten gun laws. But the country has been here before, in the aftermath of mass shootings. Regardless of which party is in power, little reform has happened. Will this time be different?  Related reading and episodes How much can a president affect gun policy? Shootings spur Biden to call for tighter gun rules

The political power of culture wars

March 18, 2021 22:36

We examine why transgender rights have risen to the forefront of our politics, and what the history of the modern Republican party reveals about how social issue battles work as a political tool, with reporter Samantha Schmidt and professor Brian Conley. Related reading and episodes A transgender girl struggles to find her voice as lawmakers attack her right to exist Transgender rights emerge as a growing political flash point The Biden era begins

Biden signed a $1.9 trillion bill. How much relief will Americans feel?

March 11, 2021 23:15

Will low income Americans feel their lives change in tangible ways? On the other hand, might a fast-growing economy cause big problems? Plus, how might Biden make sure Americans know the government is responsible for some of economic changes they see? Related reading and episodes How to fix our democracy? Start in Kindergarten. Will Biden get you a vaccine? Biden wants to sell the stimulus. The White House is still figuring out how.

How to fix our democracy? Start in Kindergarten.

March 04, 2021 23:20

A new report draws a line from today’s civics crises to a long-standing failure to effectively teach American government and history in our public schools. On this episode, we explain what the potential outcomes for civic engagement.  Related reading and episodes Biden’s shifting benchmarks for reopening schools Investment civics education proposed to address eroding trust in democracy The Biden era begins

Reshaping the role of the Justice Department

February 26, 2021 00:34

Can Attorney General nominee Merrick Garland rebuild confidence in the DOJ's independence? How might his efforts on Biden policies like combating far-right extremism and curbing police violence make the perception of an independent DOJ harder? Related reading and episodes The duty of a president during crisis Trump incited a mob. American Democracy suffered. How the Oklahoma City bombing case prepared Garland to take on domestic terrorism

Biden’s shifting benchmarks for reopening schools

February 18, 2021 23:42

Can President Biden come through on this promise of reopening most schools within his first 100 days? How much can the president influence when and how schools welcome students back into the classroom? And what are the political consequences? Related reading and episodes Will Biden get you a vaccine? Biden’s goal to reopen schools meets high-stakes political test The battle over reopening schools

The duty of a president during crisis

February 12, 2021 01:11

Some of the arguments in Trump's second impeachment trial get at the core of presidential responsibilities. We examine two of them to clarify the duties of a president during crisis and to understand how free speech applies to the commander in chief. -- Virtual event information: Want something fun to do on Presidents’ Day when you can’t leave the house? Join Presidential podcast host Lillian Cunningham for a(free!)'Presidential' trivia night with special guests, fun prizes, plus a demo of...

Biden says he wants to reunite migrant families. It won’t be easy.

February 04, 2021 23:41

Families are still separated years after President Trump's policy ended. Latin America correspondent Kevin Sieff on the experiences of some migrant families. Plus, immigration policy expert Ali Noorani explains what it would take to reunite families. Related reading and episodes They were one of the first families separated at the border. Two and a half years later, they’re still apart. Will Biden get you a vaccine? The Biden era begins 

Will Biden get you a vaccine?

January 29, 2021 00:31

How much power does Biden have to affect vaccine distribution and where is his power limited? What role should the federal government play in the process? Plus, officials on the ground explain what it's like to work to get vaccines to their communities. If you enjoy this podcast and you’d like to support the reporting that goes into it, the best way to do so is through a subscription to The Post. A subscription gets you unlimited access to everything we publish, from breaking news to baking...

The Biden era begins

January 21, 2021 23:48

President Biden campaigned on a promise to fix what’s broken, to repair divisions, to pull the country out of sickness, and to restore norms and institutions that were pillars of the Washington in which he built his career. Can he do that?  Related reading and episodes What’s next for Trump? The 46th president Biden pledges to defeat extremism and culture of lies If you enjoy this podcast and you’d like to support the reporting that goes into it, the best way to do so is through a subsc...

What’s next for Trump?

January 14, 2021 20:44

President Trump's businesses are taking a hit, he's been impeached a second time and he might face legal challenges after he leaves office. Reporter David Fahrenthold answers questions about what’s next for Trump. Related reading and episodes One impeachment is rare. Two is unprecedented. Trump incited a mob. American Democracy suffered. Does Trump’s refusal to concede put national security at risk?

One impeachment is rare. Two is unprecedented.

January 12, 2021 21:28

Why impeach a president who is on his way out? When would a Senate trial start? Can President Trump be convicted after he leaves office? What does this mean for the GOP? Author of The Post’s Power Up newsletter, Jacqueline Alemany, answers key questions. Related reading and episodes Trump incited a mob. American Democracy suffered. Does Trump’s refusal to concede put national security at risk? What happens if Trump refuses to accept a loss?

Trump incited a mob. American Democracy suffered.

January 07, 2021 23:29

The breach of the U.S. Capitol was a remarkable moment in American history. Professor Sarah Binder explains how the usually uneventful vote was expected to unfold, and reporter Philip Bump lays out the challenges a divided GOP faces in the aftermath. Related reading and episodes Does Trump’s refusal to concede put national security at risk? What happens if Trump refuses to accept a loss? Two different stories of American unrest

How can the Supreme Court maintain impartiality in America's modern political climate?

December 29, 2020 12:30

Over the holiday break, we're bringing back an old episode that has resonance today. What happens to the public's perceived independence of the Supreme Court when confirmation processes devolve into partisan battles? Original air date: October 5, 2018

The problems with pardon power

December 28, 2020 12:30

We’re looking back at an episode that sheds light on President Trump’s actions as his term ends. Reporter Toluse Olorunippa explores the principles and controversy around presidential pardons after Trump’s clemencies. Original air date: February 20, 2020.

Trump and the economy: The administration’s biggest victories also exacerbated our divides

December 23, 2020 12:30

The final episode in the reprisal of our series on President Trump’s legacy focuses on uneven gains in the Trump era. The stock market and the wealthiest Americans have done better, but at the cost of growing inequality. Original air date: Oct. 29, 2020.

Trump and science: An erosion of our institutions, in public and behind the scenes

December 22, 2020 12:30

We're revisiting our series on the legacy of Trump's administration. Through weakening agencies and shuttering scientific programs, the administration has increased divisions in our trust of science-based guidance. Original air date: Oct. 28, 2020.

Trump and race: How the president’s rhetoric and policies divided us

December 21, 2020 12:30

Over the holiday break, we're bringing back our series on President Trump's legacy. Trump has been surrounded by race-related controversies. Some hoped he would moderate his tone, but instead, he has inflamed tensions. Original air date: Oct. 27, 2020

Trump’s last chance

December 17, 2020 23:13

President Trump only has one last way to challenge the results of the election-- and he'll need Congress. How long can he hold onto his influence on GOP leaders and voters in his base? And how might his influence affect Georgia's Senate races? Related reading and episodes Does Trump’s refusal to concede put national security at risk? What do Trump’s legal threats actually accomplish? In challenging election defeat, Trump cements his control over the Republican Party

Trump takes credit for the vaccine. Does he deserve it?

December 10, 2020 22:30

How much did Trump’s efforts effect vaccine development? Has Operation Warp Speed done more to help than our government’s pre-existing pandemic response system? Dr. Nicole Lurie of The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations answers questions. Related reading and episodes What you need to know about the Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines Virus cases are surging in the U.S. Is our government better prepared now? A president’s push for an unproven cure

Pardon me? And my family? And maybe my lawyer?

December 04, 2020 03:05

President Trump is reportedly considering pardoning himself and his family for potential future Justice Department charges. Can he do that? And where does recent news of a“bribery-for-pardon” scheme fit into a president's limitations on pardon power? Related reading and episodes The problems with pardon power Trump’s view of a unilaterally powerful president goes unchallenged Giuliani? Manafort? Himself? Here’s whom a lame-duck Trump could pardon.

Trump’s lame-duck agenda: Lessons from history and warnings for coronavirus

November 19, 2020 22:55

Are Trump's major moves during a lame-duck period unprecedented? Professor Jeremi Suri offers an example from history with lessons for today. Plus, reporter Yasmeen Abutaleb on the implications of Trump's approach to the virus for Biden's incoming team. Related reading and episodes What do Trump’s legal threats actually accomplish? Does Trump’s refusal to concede put national security at risk?

Does Trump’s refusal to concede put national security at risk?

November 13, 2020 00:44

Experts are concerned that the president's unwillingness to start a transition threatens our country’s safety by denying President-elect Joe Biden resources and intelligence. Shane Harris explains the risks when a president blocks a smooth transition.  Related reading and episodes What do Trump’s legal threats actually accomplish? Amid Pentagon upheaval, military officers face a fraught few months Pressure mounts on state Republicans as lawsuits challenging election results flop

What do Trump’s legal threats actually accomplish?

November 05, 2020 21:24

Election Day 2020 is behind us, but the presidential election is far from over. Because of increased vote-by-mail and early voting, vote counts are taking longer than usual this year. The race is very tight. The winner of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency is coming down to vote counts with very thin margins in a handful of battleground states. While counts are still trickling in, President Trump has repeatedly made false claims of election fraud, declared victory in sta...

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

October 22, 2020 22:34

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?

October 15, 2020 22:54

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 cha...

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

October 08, 2020 23:53

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 a...

What happens if Trump refuses to accept a loss?

October 02, 2020 00:12

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 e...

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

September 24, 2020 21:58

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 fig...

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

September 17, 2020 19:21

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?

September 10, 2020 17:24

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

September 03, 2020 19:43

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?

August 27, 2020 21:13

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 la...

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

August 20, 2020 21:52

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

August 13, 2020 18:22

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 n...

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

August 06, 2020 21:03

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 harmles...

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

July 30, 2020 18:00

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. Th...

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

July 23, 2020 21:43

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 virus. M...

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

July 16, 2020 21:23

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 th...

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

July 09, 2020 20:14

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 cas...

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

July 02, 2020 18:00

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 presi...

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

June 25, 2020 22:03

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

June 18, 2020 19:28

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 s...

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

June 11, 2020 21:52

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 misconduc...

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

June 04, 2020 19:14

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 t...

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

June 02, 2020 16:31

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

May 28, 2020 22:11

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 t...

How Trump is leveraging the presidency to campaign against Biden

May 21, 2020 21:32

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 cap...


The White House
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