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Louis DeJoy's testimony to Congress has made Trump’s motives over the Postal Service crystal clear

The Postmaster General has proven himself nothing more than a stooge for the president, and more scrutiny will be coming

Ahmed Baba
Saturday 22 August 2020 14:46 BST
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Trump says he opposes funding for Postal Service because of mail-in voting

We've spent years discussing foreign election interference in US democracy, but now the interference is coming from inside the White House. Donald Trump welcomed Russia's help in 2016, allegedly extorted Ukraine and publicly solicited help from China.

In his desperate attempts to cling onto power, he's proven no institution is beyond the reach of his grip, and now, he's set his authoritarian sights on the US Postal Service (USPS).

The theory that President Trump is sabotaging the USPS in order to suppress the vote was given credence by his own words. While many have pointed to President Trump's interview on Fox News last week where he openly admitted to blocking more than $25 billion in USPS funding to sabotage mail-in voting, there's another Fox interview that further highlights his motives. In a March appearance on Fox & Friends, Trump condemned the election funding in the coronavirus relief bill at the time:

"The things they had in there were crazy. They had levels of voting, that if you ever agreed to it you'd never have a Republican elected in this country again."

As usual, President Trump said the quiet part out loud and clearly asserted a key to his re-election strategy is keeping the levels of voting low, as it has always been for the modern GOP. Then came Postmaster General (PMG) Louis DeJoy's appointment by a Trump-appointed USPS Board of governors that Treasury Secretary Steve Mnunchin reportedly met with prior to DeJoy's selection.

Since he assumed office in June, DeJoy displaced about two dozen key personnel and implemented seismic changes that have dramatically impacted its services. The results have been slowed delivery times, mailboxes picked off the street, and mail-sorting machines deactivated. Forty-six states were notified that their mail-in ballots might not be counted due to these delays.

These moves sparked widespread outrage from the public, culminating in lawsuits from more than 20 states and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) calling the House of Representatives back from recess, crafting a new USPS funding bill, and scheduling a hearing for 24 August . President Trump began to backtrack on his USPS funding stance and DeJoy said he would stop USPS changes until after the election. But reports have already indicated that sorting machines are still being decommissioned and DeJoy has no plans of undoing the damage he's already done.

Seeing the incoming disaster that awaited them with the 24 August hearing set to dominate the news on the first day of the Republican National Convention, Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) called DeJoy to testify before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security. That is the context through which today's hearing began. While Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) made headlines for repeatedly dropping the F-bomb during his video call technical difficulties, there's a good chance DeJoy will be muttering that word to himself after he watches back his own performance.

It was clear from the start that Senator Johnson was seeking to run a propaganda show hearing to walk DeJoy through all the accusations against him and let him create preemptive defenses ahead of the likely brutal House hearing next week. Senator Johnson began by saying DeJoy is a victim of character assassination and false narratives. Johnson said “according to Democrats,” DeJoy is trying to sabotage the USPS in order to undermine the vote. Johnson claims its false in spite of all the evidence we've seen and President Trump's own words.

Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) launched the first round of questions from Democrats. Peters questioned DeJoy on the changes made and limited overtime of employees. DeJoy claimed that he has not curtailed overtime for Postal workers in spite of the fact a 10 July USPS memo to workers clearly stated "late trips are no longer authorized or accepted." When Senator Peters confronted DeJoy with a chart that clearly indicated a stark drop-off in delivery speeds starting in mid-July, DeJoy was forced to acknowledge that delays have occurred.

This has resulted in complaints of medications being delayed, dead livestock, and countless reports of mail piling up in facilities. While Senator Johnson tried to claim that these complaints are "scripted," Senator Peters pushed back saying they're from real people. In her line of questioning, Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV) accurately pointed out that 80 per cent of veterans' prescriptions are filled through the USPS.

Senator Rosen asked DeJoy if he did any analysis to see how seniors and veterans would be affected by his changes. He did not. When pressed about whether he would reinstate the sorting machines he decommissioned, DeJoy said he won't and they aren't necessary. Postal union leaders have said that less sorting machines mean less capacity.

Trump says sheriffs will be watching polling stations in November

An interesting moment of the hearing came when DeJoy was asked about his contacts with the White House. DeJoy said he has never discussed the USPS changes with President Trump. DeJoy says he never spoke to Trump campaign officials either. But when asked if he spoke about the changes with Mnuchin, DeJoy said he told Mnuchin he had a plan to make changes but did not speak about specifics.

Given Mnuchin's role in DeJoy's selection, that raised eyebrows, especially after what we heard from former USPS Board of Governors Vice Chairman David Williams. Williams said he resigned because of Mnuchin and the Trump administration's politicization of the USPS and told House Democrats this:

"By Statute the Treasury was made responsible for providing the Postal Service with a line of credit. The Treasury was using that responsibility to make demands that I believed would turn the Postal Service into a political tool, ending its long history as an apolitical public infrastructure."

Williams also said that breaking down sorting machines actually costs money, which undermines DeJoy's claims today that he has made these changes for efficiency. Williams also says that mailboxes were being removed not as part of an already existing plan but that Mnuchin wanted it done.

DeJoy’s testimony came down to him claiming all these problems began coincidentally when his tenure started but was not caused by him. It strains credulity and contradicts what postal workers have told reporters and the concrete evidence we've seen. Given DeJoy performance before Congress and his reluctance to turn over documents, I’d say his promise that he will stop these changes deserves more scrutiny. DeJoy has proven himself to be just another Trump stooge and should be treated as such.

The USPS has the capacity to deliver this mail and handle mail-in ballots, not even DeJoy or his critics argue they don’t. So these delays appear to be deliberate. Republicans have long wanted to privatize the Postal Service but these changes so close to an election stink of something much more devious and undemocratic.

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