Trump-appointed postal chief to testify amid fears over US polls

Postmaster General to appear before Congress next week amid concerns over service’s ability to handle mail-in ballots.

President Donald Trump’s appointed postmaster general has agreed to testify before US Congress next week on cuts in service that legislators 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-cutting 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, and without evidence, claimed that mail balloting is vulnerable to fraud. Voting by mail is nothing new in the US, and one in four voters cast a ballot that way in 2016.

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

Dear @realDonaldTrump: The House agrees that we need to save the post office. That’s why we are coming back for emergency session this Saturday to pass legislation to stop the sabotage of USPS by you & Postmaster General DeJoy. We look forward to you signing the legislation. https://t.co/sBnJWFOXps

“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 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 legislators said.

“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 before the November 3 election.

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

Later on Monday, at an event in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, Trump said: “We can’t play games, get out and vote through those beautiful absentee ballots or just make sure your vote gets counted.

“Make sure, because the only way we’re going to lose this election is if the election is rigged. Remember that. The only way we’re going to lose this election. So, we have to be very careful,” he said.

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.

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 January 1, 2020, said the chamber’s number two Democrat, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer.

A Democratic congressional aide said the legislation would also include $25bn 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.

While Trump has voiced opposition to such funding, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said Monday the administration could agree to Postal Service funding as part of a bill to deliver coronavirus aid.

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