This report was written by David Sirota and Walker Bragman
The Trump-appointed chief of the United States Postal Service was interrogated on Capitol Hill on Monday about his Republican super PAC ties, which were first surfaced by a TMI investigation. At the same time, new documents showed that the GOP takeover of the agency coincided with a significant slow-down in mail delivery just months before the November election.
Under harsh questioning from Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., USPS Board of Governors Chairman Robert Duncan confirmed that, while leading the postal service, he has also been serving on the board of two Republican super PACs aiming to tilt the 2020 election. One of the super PACs is working to keep the Senate in Republican hands and the other has spent nearly $1.9 million to support President Donald Trump’s reelection. Krishnamoorthi also flagged that Duncan’s postal service bio boasts of his fundraising efforts when he served as chairman of the Republican National Committee.
Last week, the top Republican on the House Oversight and Reform Committee suggested that postal service delays aren’t actually happening and any slowdowns that may occur have nothing to do with the appointment of Trump donor Louis DeJoy as postmaster general.
“Democrats are acting like any mail delays are new and orchestrated by Postmaster General DeJoy,” said Arkansas Rep. James Comer in a speech on the House floor.
In fact, the recent delays are new and do coincide with DeJoy’s appointment, according to internal postal service documents released by congressional lawmakers over the weekend.
Those documents show a clear dropoff in service standards starting in July. DeJoy was appointed to his job only a few months before the sharp decline -- and in a process that critics say did not follow normal hiring procedures.
DeJoy is a Trump ally and prolific GOP fundraiser. He served as a deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee in 2017. DeJoy has also held stock in companies like UPS that directly compete with the USPS, and has been accused by Democrats of playing politics with the post in an effort to skew the election.
Trump has suggested he wants to block additional funding for the postal service in order to prevent more Americans from voting by mail in the upcoming election.
“If we don’t make a deal, that means they don’t get the money,” Trump said earlier this month. “That means they can’t have universal mail-in voting.”
DeJoy began making changes that slowed USPS operations upon being installed at the top of the agency.
In June, the Postal Service began removing mail sorting machines. Last week, Motherboard reported that at least 19 machines in five processing facilities nationwide “either have already been removed or are scheduled to be in the near future.” A CNN report found that those removals had been planned for months, but that internal documents referred to them as a “reduction” in equipment.
The USPS also implemented new delivery policies under the guise of cutting costs. The Postal Service banned overtime, heightened scrutiny of deliveries, and imposed a new rule to force mail trucks to depart on time regardless of whether or not they were fully loaded with the day’s mail. The policies were first revealed in leaked internal memos.
The agency at first denied these were official policies, but three days later it launched an Expedited to Street/Afternoon Sortation initiative which imposed the rules -- mail trucks were to leave on time and mail sorting was to stop at the end of the work day regardless of whether or not all of the day’s mail had been sorted or loaded. Earlier this month, CNN reported that USPS had also begun “reducing post office operating hours across several states and removing letter collection boxes.”
As President Trump warned that absentee voting would be unreliable, the Postal Service also sent letters to 46 states and DC warning that “certain deadlines for requesting and casting mail-in ballots may be incongruous with the Postal Service’s delivery standards.” Those letters, which went out at the end of last month, suggested that absentee ballots requested less than 15 days before the election and ballots mailed less than a week beforehand may not be counted.
“The Postal Service cannot adjust its delivery standards to accommodate the requirements of state election law,” they read.
Facing scrutiny and increasing disquiet from Democrats, USPS suspended its removal of collection boxes nationally. On Friday, DeJoy assured lawmakers that "the Postal Service is fully capable of delivering the nation's election mail securely and on time.”
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