The Morning Call

DeJoy: Changes not tied to election

Calls president’s attacks on mail-in ballots ‘not helpful’

- By Matthew Daly, Lisa Mascaro and Anthony Izaguirre

WASHINGTON — Postmaster General Louis DeJoy told lawmakers Monday that he has warned allies of President Donald Trump that the president’s repeated attacks on mailin ballots are “not helpful,” but denied that recent changes at the Postal Service are linked to the November elections.

DeJoy was testifying for a second day on Capitol Hill, facing tense questions from lawmakers over an uproar in mail delivery delays since he took the helm in mid-June.

“I am not engaged in sabotaging the election,” DeJoy said, adding that, like Trump, he personally plans to vote by mail.

The hearing quickly became a debate over delivery disruption­s being reported nationwide. Democrats said the changes under DeJoy’s watch are causing widespread delays, but Republican­s dismissed the worries as unfounded and part of a Democratic “conspiracy” against Trump.

Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., said the upheaval at one of the nation’s oldest and most popular institutio­ns was either the result of “gross incompeten­ce” or that DeJoy was “doing this on purpose.”

“What the heck are you doing?” Lynch asked DeJoy at a sometimes contentiou­s House Oversight Committee hearing. DeJoy denied wrongdoing and accused Lynch and other

Democrats of spreading misinforma­tion.

DeJoy also disputed published reports that he has eliminated overtime for postal workers and said a Postal Service document outlining overtime restrictio­ns was written by a midlevel manager.

DeJoy, who has called election mail his “No. 1 priority,” said he will authorize expanded use of overtime, extra truck trips and other measures in the weeks before the election to ensure on-time delivery of ballots.

DeJoy urged voters to request mail-in ballots at least 15 days before the Nov. 3 election so they have enough time to receive their ballot, complete it and mail it back to elections officials on time. Acknowledg­ing an expected surge in mail-in ballots because of the coronaviru­s pandemic, DeJoy said voters should mail back their ballots at least seven days prior to the election.

His advice “should in no way be misconstru­ed to imply that we lack confidence in our ability to deliver those ballots,” DeJoy told the panel. “We can, and will, handle the volume of election mail we receive.”

The oversight hearing came two days after the House approved legislatio­n Saturday to reverse changes at the Postal Service and send $25 billion to shore up the agency ahead of the November election. Twenty-six House Republican­s broke with Trump to back the House bill, which passed 257-150, although there was little sign of bipartisan­ship at Monday’s hearing.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., the committee chairwoman and author of the House bill, said DeJoy was using the Postal Service’s long-standing fiscal problems as an excuse “to justify sweeping and damaging changes to Postal Service operations. And we have all seen the results: national headlines about delays of days and weeks, veterans desperatel­y waiting for their medication­s, sorting machines being ripped out and thrown in dumpsters.”

Maloney’s committee on Saturday released internal Postal Service documents warning about steep declines and delays in a range of mail services since early July, shortly after DeJoy took the helm.

Delays have occurred in firstclass and marketing mail, periodical­s and Priority Mail, the agency says in an Aug. 12 briefing prepared by Postal Service staff for DeJoy.

“These new documents show that the delays we have all heard about are actually far worse than previously reported,” Maloney said.

DeJoy acknowledg­ed at a Senate hearing last week that there has been a “dip” in service, but disputed reports of widespread problems.

At one point, Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., questioned DeJoy’s role as a fundraiser for Trump’s 2016 election leading to a heated exchange. Cooper cited news reports of mail trucks being forced to leave on schedule even when completely empty and pointedly reminded DeJoy that it’s a felony to delay delivery of the mail.

DeJoy called empty trucks unfortunat­e but not new. He said he’s in “full compliance” with ethics rules and resented the line of questions.

Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Md., told DeJoy flatly that he does not trust him.

Republican­s took the opposite approach, repeatedly apologizin­g to DeJoy for the harsh questions and dismissing the mail delivery delays as a conspiracy theory.

“You’re getting a berating up here,” Rep. Ralph Norman, RS.C., told DeJoy.

The Postal Service landed in the middle of election-year tensions after Trump, during an interview on Fox News, acknowledg­ed he’s blocking emergency funds to the Postal Service to make it harder to process an expected surge of mail-in ballots.

Because of the COVID-19 crisis, millions of Americans are expected to avoid polling places and try to cast their ballots by mail.

DeJoy, a wealthy Republican donor, owned a logistics business that was a longtime Postal Service contractor, and he has significan­t financial stakes in companies that do business or compete with the agency. DeJoy said Monday he is in “full compliance” with ethics rules and said his actions as postmaster were just “a plan to run trucks on time.”

Rep. Katie Porter, D-Calif., fired off a round of quick, seemingly basic questions —

How much to does it cost to mail a postcard? And how many people voted by mail in the last election? — only to find DeJoy did not know the answers.

“I’m concerned about your understand­ing of this agency,” she told DeJoy.

DeJoy said many of the operationa­l changes, such as removal of sorting machines, were underway before he arrived. Porter and other Democrats pressed him on who ordered the changes.

DeJoy did not provide an answer.

Porter and another Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., also raised questions about DeJoy’s financial interests. He said he had no stakes in online giant Amazon, a major Postal Service customer and a frequent target of criticism from Trump.

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows called the House bill approved Saturday a “political statement” and stressed that Trump would consider additional money only as part of a broader coronaviru­s relief package. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the Senate is eyeing $10 billion for the Postal Service in a new COVID-19 relief package, but won’t pass stand-alone legislatio­n for the post office.

 ?? TOM WILLIAMS/AP ?? Postmaster General Louis DeJoy testifies Monday at a House Oversight Committee hearing .
TOM WILLIAMS/AP Postmaster General Louis DeJoy testifies Monday at a House Oversight Committee hearing .

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