Donald Trump’s postmaster general has announced he will postpone policy changes to the US Postal Service "to avoid even the appearance of any impact” on the November election after critics said they would cause a delay in mail services.
Postmaster Louis DeJoy, who the president appointed to lead the USPS despite not having any post office experience, confirmed the surprise postponement in a statement on Tuesday afternoon, writing: “To avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail, I am suspending these initiatives until after the election is concluded."
Democrats in Congress and several Democratic state attorneys general had sought to block the cuts, which critics said the Trump administration were backing to limit mail-in voting.
The USPS did not immediately comment.
Democrats and other critics have accused the Republican president of trying to hobble the Postal Service to suppress mail-in voting as he trails Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden in opinion polls ahead of the 3 November election.
The move followed a lengthy call by the postal board of governors on Monday night, two people briefed on the matter said.
Mr Trump said last week he was against Democratic efforts to include funds for the Postal Service and election infrastructure in coronavirus relief legislation because he wanted to limit mail-in voting during the coronavirus pandemic.
Earlier on Tuesday, states including Washington, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New York said they were planning legal moves to block the cuts.
"The integrity of our elections is fundamental to our nation's democracy and we won't allow anyone to undermine them, not even the president of the United States," New York attorney general Letitia James said.
Mr Trump has repeatedly and without evidence claimed that mail balloting is vulnerable to fraud. Voting by mail is nothing new in the United States, and one in four voters cast ballots that way in 2016.
Mr DeJoy is scheduled to testify on Friday before the Republican-led Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, spokesmen for the committee and the Postal Service said. Mr DeJoy, a major political donor and ally of Mr Trump, assumed the job in June.
Mr DeJoy also is scheduled to testify on Monday before the Democratic-led House of Representatives Oversight and Reform Committee.
Democrats have raised concerns that Postal Service cost cutting could lead to missed or delayed ballots. They have pointed to reductions in overtime, restrictions on extra mail transportation trips and new mail sorting and delivery policies as changes that threaten to slow mail delivery - and in some cases, already have.
Reuters contributed to this report
Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism
By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists
Already have an account? sign in
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies