Trump versus the USPS
September 8, 2020

President Trump said Monday he's fine with an investigation of his new postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, after five former employees told The Washington Post that DeJoy encouraged or pressured them into donating to Republican candidates then reimbursed them through bonuses. That would break at least two serious campaign finance laws, though because DeJoy sold the company, New Breed Logistics, in 2014, statues of limitation would probably prevent his criminal prosecution in federal court.

"Sure, sure, let the investigations go," Trump told reporters when asked about the DeJoy allegations. He called the postmaster general a "very honest guy" but agreed he should lose his job "if something can be proven that he did something wrong." DeJoy was already under fire for changes that slowed mail delivery.

DeJoy spokesman Monty Hagler told the Post the postmaster general wasn't aware any of his former employees had felt pressured to make donations, though he did not specifically address the donation reimbursement allegations, saying only that DeJoy "believes that he has always followed campaign fundraising laws and regulations." According to a Post review of campaign finance documents, New Breed employees donated at least $1 million to GOP candidates when DeJoy headed the company from 2000 to 2014.

The five-year statute of limitations means DeJoy won't face time in federal prison, and the lack of a Federal Election Commission quorum effectively shields him from federal civil charges. But what he is alleged to have done is also illegal in North Carolina, where New Breed is based, and there is no statute of limitations on the state charges.

House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) said late Monday her committee will investigate the DeJoy allegations and whether he lied under oath. She also urged the USPS Board of Governors to immediately suspend him. The chairman of the USPS board, Robert Duncan, is listed as a director on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) Senate Leadership Fund super PAC. Peter Weber

August 17, 2020

President Trump said last Thursday he opposes the push by Democrats to give the U.S. Postal Service billions of dollars for the election, telling Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo "they need that money in order for the Post Office to work, to take in these millions and millions of ballots,” and without the funds, "they can’t have universal mail-in voting."

But despite what Trump says and Democrats say they fear, a lack of money won't stop the USPS from delivering ballots in a timely matter, according to postal experts and the USPS itself. In the week before Christmas, for example, the USPS processes and delivers 2.5 billion pieces of first-class mail, or about 500 million cards and letters a day, not to mention packages.

"From a sheer numbers perspective, none of the experts I spoke with doubted that the Postal Service could handle a vote-by-mail election, even if every one of the nation’s more than 150 million registered voters stuck their ballot in a mailbox," Russell Berman writes in The Atlantic. "As one noted to me, a presidential election might be a big deal, but in postal terms, it’s no Christmas." The experts are worried about measures put in place by new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy.

The disappearing mail-sorting machines and mail collection boxes aren't the big concern — or even necessarily DeJoy's doing, Nick Harper explains in a Medium post. The real electoral threat, Berman says, is DeJoy's rapid moves to eliminate overtime, "even though as many as 40,000 postal workers have been quarantined or out sick because of the coronavirus," and leave mail behind if it isn't on the truck on schedule, violating the Postal Service ethos and gumming up the works. The USPS has also said it won't treat all ballots as first-class mail, as it normally does.

But USPS has been preparing for a surge in mail-in ballots since before DeJoy took over, Berman writes, and besides, "post offices may not follow directives from Washington, D.C., if they believe doing so will tamper with the election. Postal workers are voters too, and for years they've been trained to prioritize ballots at election time." Read more at The Atlantic. Peter Weber

August 17, 2020

"Soon after taking office in 2017, President Trump seized on the U.S. Postal Service as an emblem of the bloated bureaucracy," repeatedly calling it "a loser," The Washington Post reports, citing aides who discussed the matter with him. "Allies coddled Trump by telling him the reason he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton in 2016 was widespread mail-in balloting fraud — a conspiracy theory for which there is no evidence — and the president's postal outrage coarsened further."

Trump himself came up with the false idea that Amazon's Jeff Bezos was "getting rich" because Amazon had been "ripping off" the Postal Service with a "sweetheart deal" on package delivery, an aide told the Post, leading to private griping among advisers who kept trying to explain to Trump that the Amazon-USPS deal was mutually beneficial. The Post adds this anecdote:

As Larry Kudlow prepared to take over for Gary Cohn as National Economic Council director in 2018, Kudlow told Cohn, "I just talked to the president and we have got to do something about this special deal Amazon has with the Postal Service," according to two former senior administration officials. ... Cohn burst out laughing and told Kudlow: "It's not my problem anymore. I've heard about this all the time since I've been here, and I've tried explaining that the post office actually competes for and wants last-mile delivery." [The Washington Post]

But now Trump's views on the Postal Service have collided with the upcoming election, to be conducted by mail to an unprecedented degree because of COVID-19. "Trump's fury with the Postal Service and mail-in balloting has become something of an obsession in recent weeks," the Post reports. "The president devotes extensive time to reading news reports and other materials about mail-in ballots, talking about the topic with his advisers and thinking about how to block such voting, according to one senior administration official."

Perhaps coincidentally, changes instituted by his new postmaster general and major Trump donor, Louis DeJoy, have led to slowed delivery and service disruptions around the U.S., as The New York Times details.

"In the 245 years of the Postal Service, no one has seen political attacks like this," James O'Rourke, a Notre Dame management professor who specializes in the USPS, tells the Post. "While for a long time we thought this was not politically driven, it's becoming increasingly transparent in recent days that this is almost entirely political." Peter Weber

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