Yet again this year we will be seeing a standoff between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Donald Trump, as the House begins making the case that Trump and his new postmaster general have been deliberately sabotaging the U.S. Postal Service ahead of the election.
Following a weekend of what the Associated Press calls "high-level leadership discussions" on the matter, Pelosi is now planning a House vote this Saturday, just after the Democratic National Convention wraps up, on a bill to prohibit changes at the USPS and potentially reverse some that have been made in recent months.
"In a time of a pandemic, the Postal Service is Election Central," Pelosi wrote in a letter to House members on Sunday, telling them their recess until September would be ending nearly a month ahead of schedule. "Lives, livelihoods and the life of our American Democracy are under threat from the president."
Additionally, two House representatives, Ted Lieu (D-California) and Hakeem Jeffries (D-New York), penned a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray asking the agency to investigate whether Trump and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy committed any crimes in their recent changes to postal infrastructure.
"Multiple media investigations show that Postmaster DeJoy and the Board of Governors have retarded the passage of mail," the congressmen wrote. "It is not unreasonable to conclude that Postmaster General DeJoy and the Board of Governors may be executing Donald Trump’s desire to affect mail-in balloting."
The letter, which cites the removal of 19 letter-sorting machines and the planned dismantling of hundreds more, was first reported on by MSNBC Monday morning.
Scoop on @Morning_Joe: Two Democratic members of House Judiciary are calling for a criminal inquiry of Postmaster DeJoy and the Board of Governors. Here’s the letter to the FBI from @RepTedLieu & @RepJeffries. pic.twitter.com/fj0N4dpnvr— Michael Del Moro (@MikeDelMoro) August 17, 2020
From his recess in Horse Cave, Kentucky, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell gave a news conference pushing back on these claims, and saying the Senate would not be returning early to respond to the House vote. "The Postal Service is going to be just fine," McConnell said, per the New York Times. "We’re going to make sure that the ability to function going into the election is not adversely affected."
And Trump went on Fox & Friends Monday morning to defend DeJoy and to once again say that mail-in voting in this election will be "a disaster." He added, "I want to make the post office great again."
Members of the House Oversight and Reform Committee look to be calling an emergency hearing on Monday, August 24, in which they plan to grill leaders of the Postal Service about the delays.
And while the threats to the Postal Service may or may not be grave and immediate, the issue is proving to be one with broad traction across the electorate — and one that Democrats can point to often during the DNC this week as evidence that President Trump is a corrupt would-be autocrat who will stop at nothing to improve his chances of staying in office.
Thus far, the Postal Service has responded only by saying that it will halt the removal of its blue mailboxes from city streets for the next 90 days. The removal of these boxes began being noticed in the Oregon cities of Portland and Eugene last week, and the Postal Service said the removals were happening with only "duplicate" boxes in areas that already had multiple collection points — due to reportedly declining first-class mail usage during the pandemic. On Friday, the USPS said the removal of boxes would stop in all Western states until mid-November, and that was expanded to the whole country as of Sunday.
At a virtual fundraising event last week, Joe Biden commented on the disappearance of the boxes, per CNN, saying, "I was joking earlier with a couple on the call. I wonder if you're outside trying to hold down your mailboxes. They're going around literally with tractor-trailers picking up mailboxes. You oughta go online and check out what they're doing in Oregon. I mean, it's bizarre!"
In a New York Times investigative report published Saturday, postal workers in Pennsylvania said they were on "high alert" as mail-sorting machines were getting removed and strange things seemed to be happening to hamper service particularly around the Democratic stronghold of Philadelphia.
Nick Casselli, president of the American Postal Worker’s Union Local 89, told the paper that local post offices in PA were being flooded with complaints.
"I have some customers banging on my people’s doors: 'Open up!'" Casselli told the Times. "I’ve never seen that in my whole 35-year postal career."
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