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Embattled Postmaster General Louis DeJoy said Tuesday he was “suspending” cost-cutting changes to the U.S. Postal Service that had slowed mail service, resulting in an outcry over the likelihood of delays in deliveries of absentee and mail-in ballots in November.
DeJoy said he was pausing much-criticized initiatives meant “to secure the success of this organization and its long-term sustainability” in order “to avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail.”
President Trump has essentially admitted that he didn’t want to approve additional funds for the Postal Service because he thinks voting by mail will hurt his reelection chances. He told Fox News that such expansion would lead to “levels of voting, that if you ever agreed to it you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”
But some of the damage already done by DeJoy’s moves is likely to last at least through the election.
“They want $3.5 billion for something that will turn out to be fraudulent, that’s election money, basically,” Trump said in an interview last week with Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo. “They want $25 billion, billion, for the post office. Now, they need that money in order to have the post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots. Now, in the meantime, they aren’t getting there. By the way, those are just two items. But if they don’t get those two items, that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting.”
Last week, the U.S. Postal Service warned 46 states that delivery delays could cause voters to become disenfranchised. DeJoy did not say whether the postal sorting machines that have been taken out of service, which postal workers blame for some of the delays, would be replaced. Documents obtained by Vice stated that some of the machines had already been destroyed. DeJoy also did not say if the postal service would put back the public mailboxes that have been removed across the country.
Before he was appointed postmaster general in June, DeJoy was a businessman with a North Carolina-based logistics company, and a Trump campaign megadonor. He and his wife have invested millions in private companies that compete with the Postal Service for deliveries. Postal Service Inspector General Tammy Whitcomb launched an investigation into both the new policies and DeJoy’s financial portfolio last week at the request of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.
“This is a start,” wrote Warren, after DeJoy’s statement. “But we still need to reverse all the damage, fully fund USPS & investigate DeJoy’s conflicts. And we need to keep our eyes on DeJoy so he keeps his promise & doesn’t find new ways to dismantle the USPS. I’ll be watching DeJoy’s actions – not just his words.”
DeJoy is set to testify in front of a Senate committee Friday and a House committee Monday about his actions. In addition, at least 20 states were planning to sue him and the Postal Service over the changes, arguing that they would impede the ability to hold free and fair elections. A Yahoo News/YouGov poll released Monday found that 61 percent of voters opposed Trump’s withholding Postal Service funding in order to hinder mail-in voting.
Trump has frequently alluded to what he describes as massive voting-fraud conspiracies affecting millions of votes, but the White House has not provided any evidence to support the claims, and some states already use the process safely. He has cited reports of problems distributing and processing mail-in ballots in local elections, including applications for absentee ballots sent to “dogs” and “dead people.”
The president said Tuesday that difficulties with mail-in voting could lead to a “redo” in November’s election. Last month, Trump floated the idea of delaying the election, which is something he does not have the power to do, as the date of the election is decided by Congress. Federal Election Commission head Ellen Weintraub dismissed the proposal.
“No, Mr. President,” wrote Weintraub. “No. You don’t have the power to move the election. Nor should it be moved. States and localities are asking you and Congress for funds so they can properly run the safe and secure elections all Americans want. Why don’t you work on that?”
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