WASHINGTON (Reuters) – 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.
U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a major Trump political donor, agreed to testify on Aug. 24 before a House of Representatives panel investigating whether service changes adopted in recent weeks have slowed mail deliveries, according to the committee, which called his appearance voluntary.
Congressional Democrats have raised concerns that, in a 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 specifically 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, who has repeatedly and without evidence claimed that mail balloting is vulnerable to fraud, denied trying to undermine the Postal Service’s ability to handle a flood of ballots.
“We want to make it run efficiently, run good,” 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 opinion polls.
“We want to make it run for less money, much better, always taking care of our postal workers,” the Republican president said, describing the Postal Service “one of the disasters of the world.”
Voting by mail is nothing new in the United States, and one in four voters cast ballots that way in 2016.
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 coronavirus pandemic.
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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 on 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-led 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.
Senate Democrats led by Senator Chuck Schumer urged the Postal Service board of governors to reverse a series of changes adopted by DeJoy that they said have led to mail service delays.
CRIMINAL PROBE SOUGHT
House Democratic Conference Chairman Hakeem Jeffries and Representative 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,” the lawmakers added.
Several Democratic state attorneys general also considering potential legal action to stop Postal Service changes that could affect the election outcome.
Trump and a close Senate ally on Monday sought to portray the Democrats as at fault. Trump told reporters outside the White House that he wants to “make sure the election is not stolen.”
Republican Senator Tom Cotton defended the president by accusing Democrats of promoting “conspiracy” theories. “Their unfounded hysteria over the Postal Service may be the craziest one yet,” Cotton said on Twitter.
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