Postmaster General to Testify Amid Fears About Election

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -
postmaster general mail in ballots
Postmaster General Louis Dejoy arrives at a meeting at the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi earlier this month. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump’s appointed postmaster general on Monday agreed to testify before Congress next week on cuts in service that lawmakers fear could hamper the Postal Service’s ability to handle a flood of mail-in ballots in November’s election.

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a major Trump political donor, agreed to testify next Monday before the Democratic-led House of Representatives Oversight and Reform Committee, which is investigating whether service changes adopted in recent weeks have slowed mail deliveries.

The committee called DeJoy’s appearance voluntary. Robert Duncan, who chairs the Postal Service board of governors and is a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, will testify along with DeJoy, the Postal Service confirmed.

Congressional Democrats have raised concerns that, amid a coronavirus pandemic that is expected to result in about twice as many Americans voting by mail as did so in 2016, cost cuts at the Postal Service could lead to missed or delayed ballots. They have pointed to reductions in overtime, restrictions on extra mail transportation trips and new mail sorting and delivery policies as changes that threaten to slow mail delivery.

Trump has repeatedly claimed that mail balloting is vulnerable to fraud. One in four voters cast ballots by mail in 2016.

Separately, House Democratic Conference Chairman Hakeem Jeffries, and Rep. Ted Lieu, also called on the FBI to open a criminal probe into DeJoy.

“There is evidence that making mail-in balloting more difficult may be one of the motivations for the changes instituted at the Post Office,” Jeffries and Lieu wrote in a Monday letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray. “There is also evidence that the Postmaster General has a financial stake in multiple financial entities that are either competitors to or contractors for the Post Office.”

‘NOT TAMPERING’

“No, we’re not tampering,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News amid an outcry from Democrats and other critics who accuse him of trying to hamstring the Postal Service to suppress mail-in voting as he trails Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden in polls ahead of the Nov. 3 election.

“We want to make it run efficiently, run good,” Trump said of the Postal Service.

Trump told reporters outside the White House that he wants to “make sure the election is not stolen.”

Republican Senator Tom Cotton, a close Trump ally, accused Democrats of promoting “conspiracy” theories, a charge echoed by House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy.

Trump, who himself plans to cast an absentee ballot by mail in Florida, and many other Republicans, have opposed an expansion of mail-in voting to accommodate people concerned about going to the polls to vote in-person due to fears amid the pandemic.

He also expressed support for expanded in-person voting including more voting booths, early voting and other efforts, while he reiterated his attacks on mail-in voting.

Trump last Thursday said he was opposing Democratic efforts to include funds for the Postal Service and election infrastructure in coronavirus-relief legislation, as he aims to block an expansion in mail-in voting during the pandemic. Trump said in March that with mail-in voting at levels that Democrats were seeking, “you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”

The Democratic-controlled House will meet on Saturday to consider legislation prohibiting changes to Postal Service levels that were in place on Jan. 1, 2020, said the chamber’s No. 2 Democrat, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer.

A Democratic congressional aide said the legislation will also include $25 billion in funding for the Postal Service. Congressional Democrats had sought that amount in talks on coronavirus-relief legislation that broke down more than a week ago without an agreement.

While Trump has voiced opposition to such funding, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told reporters on Monday that the administration could agree to Postal Service funding as part of a bill to deliver relief to millions of Americans during the pandemic.