December 4, 2019

The Vatican announced Wednesday that Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Bishop Richard Malone of the Diocese of Buffalo, New York. No reason was given for Malone's departure, two years before he turns 75, the mandatory retirement age for Catholic prelates. But under Malone's watch, the Buffalo diocese has become engulfed in scandal over the handling of sexual abuse cases; it now faces an FBI investigation and more than 220 lawsuits, and in one recent poll, 86 percent of Buffalo Catholics wanted him to quit.

Malone was appointed Buffalo's bishop in 2012, and a 2018 sexual abuse allegation against a priest in the diocese set off a flood of more complaints. The list of credibly accused abusers in March 2018 was criticized as incomplete by a whistleblower who said she had found a 300-page dossier in a closet, next to a vacuum cleaner. Pressure mounted in September after a Buffalo TV station broadcast audio secretly recorded by Malone's priest-secretary in which the bishop lamented that a seminarian's sexual harassment accusation could "be the end of me as a bishop," and the seminarian, Matthew Bojanowski, then publicly accused Malone of failing to take action against his alleged abuser.

The pope appointed Bishop Edward Scharfenberger of Albany to lead the diocese on a temporary basis. Peter Weber

1:11 p.m.

A government watchdog has found that two top Department of Homeland Security officials are not eligible for their jobs — and Democrats want them to immediately "resign in disgrace."

The independent Government Accountability Office on Friday said that Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf and Kenneth Cuccinelli, his deputy, were appointed to their positions in violation of the Vacancies Reform Act, and the two top officials are "serving under an invalid order of succession," The Washington Post reports.

The watchdog explains that when former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen resigned in 2019, the official who became acting secretary, Kevin McAleenan, "had not been designated in the order of succession to serve," and since "the incorrect official assumed the title of acting secretary at that time, subsequent amendments to the order of succession made by that official were invalid."

House Homeland Security Committee Chair Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and Committee on Oversight and Reform Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) in a statement called for the officials to resign, while Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chair Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) also said Wolf and Cuccinelli "must resign in disgrace" or be removed from office.

"There are also major questions about the legality of their actions over the last 16 months that the DHS Office of the Inspector General must swiftly review," Castro added.

A spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security in a statement per the Post said "we wholeheartedly disagree with the GAO's baseless report and plan to issue a formal response to this shortly." Brendan Morrow

1:00 p.m.

Former President Barack Obama isn't happy with all the changes afoot at the United States Postal Service.

In an interview on Friday, Obama urged lawmakers to fight against what he called President Trump's attempt to "actively kneecap the Postal Service," reports NBC News. Trump has repeatedly falsely claimed mail-in voting is unsafe, and on Thursday said he didn't want more funding for the USPS so that universal mail-in voting couldn't be set up before November's election.

Obama said action was necessary, both by members of Congress and citizens, to "protect the integrity" of the presidential election.

"What we've never seen before is a president say, 'I'm going to try to actively kneecap the Postal Service to encourage voting, and I will be explicit about the reason I'm doing it.' That's sort of unheard of, right?" said Obama. He also accused Republicans of trying "to discourage people's votes from counting" with other measures like gerrymandering and voter identification restrictions.

The Trump administration recently installed major Trump donor Louis DeJoy as Postmaster General, and has sued several state's efforts to expand mail-in voting amid the pandemic.

"The thing I'm most worried about," said Obama, is "how do we protect the integrity of the election process? How do we make sure that people's votes are counted? How do we police and monitor how state officials are setting up polling places and ensuring that every vote is counted?" He said despite previous Republican efforts to alter voting processes, Trump's attacks on USPS are "unique to modern history." Summer Meza

11:49 a.m.

As reports suggest numerous changes within the United States Postal Service could hinder its ability to process a flood of mail-in ballots this fall, it appears USPS officials created a plan to reduce mail sorting capacity.

Vice News' Motherboard reported Thursday that USPS has removed several mail sorting machines without a clear explanation to postal worker unions. In a follow-up report Friday, Vice reports the removals were part of a larger-scale plan from USPS officials, quite literally titled "Equipment Reduction." The plan proposed removing 15-20 percent of sorting machines across the country, which workers say would reduce processing capacities and force more mail to be hand-sorted, possibly causing consequential delays.

A USPS spokesperson said the Post Office "routinely moves equipment around its network as necessary," and said it was merely "adapting our processing infrastructure to the current volumes." But Vice writes that the "equipment reduction" plan made no mention of moving machines, just eliminating them. Sources even said "they have personally witnessed the machines, which cost millions of dollars, being destroyed or thrown in the dumpster," says Vice. "This will slow mail processing," one union official said.

After President Trump said he didn't want to give Democrats requested funding that would help expand mail-in voting amid the pandemic, lawmakers are keeping a close eye on USPS changes that could lead to fewer votes being counted in time for the presidential election. A group of senators urged Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to protect ballot processing. "Removing 20 percent of the Postal Service's sorting and processing equipment looks like another part of [Trump's] plan to bulldoze a vital American institution just to cling to power," said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). As Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) put it, "this is insane." Read more at Vice News. Summer Meza

11:45 a.m.

Robert Trump, President Trump's younger brother, has been hospitalized in New York, ABC News reports.

The White House on Friday confirmed that Trump's 72-year-old brother is in the hospital, with press secretary Kayleigh McEnany also saying that the two "have a very good relationship."

Further details were not provided by the White House, though ABC cited sources as saying that Robert Trump is "very ill." He was previously hospitalized in June and spent more than a week in the intensive care unit. At the time, The Daily Beast reported that he was "being treated for a serious condition."

The president is reportedly expected to visit his brother in the hospital on Friday. Brendan Morrow

10:48 a.m.

Should President Trump lose re-election, could Rep. Kevin McCarthy's (R-Calif.) House leadership position be in danger?

A new report in The Washington Post describes how "discontent" with the Republican minority leader is "on the rise" in the House of Representatives, and a "small group of members is discussing whether someone should challenge him for minority leader if Trump is defeated," as Republicans prepare for a potential "intraparty war."

While the report notes the anti-McCarthy sentiment in the House is certainly "far from unanimous," it describes how some Republicans feel he's too close to Trump and has given the president "too much of a pass," with one House Republican saying McCarthy "does nothing but lick Trump's boots." It isn't clear who could actually challenge McCarthy, though the report says House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) has been eyed.

"[McCarthy] becomes damaged goods [if Trump loses], but it could be offset if he is successful in helping the GOP conference win back a bunch of seats," a senior House Republican told the Post. "But if we lose ... the Republican conference is probably going to be looking for something different in leadership."

A spokesperson for McCarthy downplayed this talk, saying Republicans "are united and singularly focused on working with President Trump to renew the American Dream, restore our way of life, and rebuild the greatest economy ever." Read more at The Washington Post.

Brendan Morrow

9:41 a.m.

Billie Eilish and more stars are headed (virtually) to this year's Democratic convention.

Organizers of the 2020 Democratic National Convention on Friday announced that the event scheduled to begin next week will feature performances from Leon Bridges, The Chicks, Common, Billie Eilish, Jennifer Hudson, John Legend, Billy Porter, Maggie Rogers, Prince Royce, and Stephen Stills.

While the Democratic convention was originally set to take place entirely in person in Wisconsin, it has since been revamped into a primarily virtual event, with even former Vice President Joe Biden himself set to accept the party's nomination for president from Delaware. These artists, too, are expected to deliver their performances remotely, People reports.

As CBS notes, Legend and Hudson previously performed at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Most recently, the 2016 convention featured performances from artists including Alicia Keys and Katy Perry. Stephanie Cutter, program executive for the DNC, in a statement said that the stars set to perform this year are "committed to engaging with, registering and mobilizing voters to get us over the finish line in November." The convention is set to begin on Aug. 17. Brendan Morrow

8:28 a.m.

The United States Postal Service has warned that in Pennsylvania, some mail-in ballots may not be delivered in time to be counted this November.

In a July letter to Pennsylvania State Secretary Kathy Boockvar, USPS general counsel Thomas Marshall described the "risk that ballots requested near the deadline under state law will not be returned by mail in time to be counted under your laws as we understand them," NBC News reports.

The USPS also described Pennsylvania's current deadlines as "incongruous with the Postal Service's delivery standards," per Axios. Voters in the swing state can request a mail-in ballot up to Oct. 27, and they have to be received by 8:00 p.m. on Election Day, according to The Hill.

But officials in the state are looking to extend the deadline to receive mail-in ballots three days, with Boockvar raising concern in a court filing that "voters who apply for mail-in ballots in the last week of the application period and return their completed ballot by mail will, through no fault of their own, likely be disenfranchised," CNN reports.

The warning in Pennsylvania came just after President Trump in an interview cited his desire to prevent universal mail-in voting this November, noting that if the Postal Service doesn't get the funding that Democrats are seeking, "that means you can't have universal mail-in voting, because they're not equipped to have it." Brendan Morrow

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