Postmaster General Louis DeJoy told Congress he is not trying to sabotage the November elections as House Democrats on Monday accused him of helping President Trump gain an unfair edge at the ballot box with recent changes in service that have slowed mail delivery.
“I am not engaged in sabotaging the election,” Mr. DeJoy told the House Oversight and Reform Committee, adding that he plans to vote by mail.
Meanwhile, Republicans accused Democrats of pursuing a “conspiracy” against the U.S. Postal Service for political gain.
Mr. DeJoy took a similar tack, arguing that Democrats are pushing a “false narrative” to mislead the American people.
While he touted his attempts to streamline mail to improve efficiency at the financially struggling agency, Mr. DeJoy acknowledged there were “temporary” issues with service over the past few months, which he vowed to address.
“We are fixing this,” he said. “In fact, last week service improved across all mail and package categories and I am laser-focused on improving service for the American public.”
He also issued another commitment to prioritize mail-in ballots and reminded the public to vote early to ensure their vote was counted in time. He urged voters to request mail-in ballots at least 15 days before the Nov. 3 elections so they have enough time to receive their ballot, complete it and mail it back in time.
The hearing lasted more than five hours, with several technical glitches throughout the day, as Democrats grilled Mr. DeJoy with heavy skepticism about his ability to competently lead the postal service.
“Perhaps this was intentional. Maybe Mr. DeJoy was warned his changes would cause delays but he disregarded those warnings. That would be extremely reckless,” said committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney. “Or perhaps there is a far simpler explanation. Perhaps Mr. DeJoy is doing exactly what President Trump said he wanted using the blocking of funds to justify sweeping changes to hobble mail-in-voting.”
The New York Democrat shared data she released on Friday showing a steep drop in service starting in July and said that the complaints she has received are “widespread.”
Mr. DeJoy, a top Trump donor and former logistics executive, took over as postmaster general in June.
Recent reports about the changes — including the collection of mailboxes, decommissioning mail-sorting machines, changes to mail routes, and cuts to overtime — have sparked concern about the Postal Service’s ability to function efficiently during the pandemic.
It was Mr. DeJoy’s second trip to Capitol Hill in four days to answer lawmakers’ questions about the mail delays and service issues, but it was by far the more aggressive session.
House Democrats didn’t hold back in accusing Mr. DeJoy of conflicts of interest as a GOP donor, with ties to the Trump administration, and a “financial interest” in Amazon, which does a significant portion of its shipping with the postal service.
“I am tempted to ask, after 240 years of patriotic service of delivering mail, how can one person screw up things in just a few weeks,” Rep. Stephen Lynch of Massachusetts said, in a particularly tense exchange.
Progressive freshman Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan — well known for her harsh and colorful criticism of Mr. Trump — insinuated that Mr. DeJoy was flirting with the line of legality when it came to his connection to Amazon. He denied having a financial interest in the company.
“This impeached president, you have to realize, has a track record of employing crooks who end up in a lot of trouble for their illegal activity, Mr. DeJoy,” she said. “With all due respect, you are not in good company right now, so do the right thing and resign.”
During the Senate hearing Friday, Mr. DeJoy said he had no contact with the Trump administration about postal service policies regarding the election. However, on Monday he acknowledged there was some chatter among friends he knew were “associated with the campaign” about the president’s criticisms of vote-by-mail.
Republicans staunchly defended Mr. DeJoy throughout the day and flipped the Democrats’ scare-tactic argument against them, accusing them of trying to intimidate the electorate into voting against the president with misinformation.
Mr. Trump echoed that argument as he kicked off the Republican National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“This time they try to do [it] with the whole post office scam,” he said. “They’ll blame it on the post office, you could see them setting it up. Be very careful and watch it very carefully, because we have to win. This is the most important election in the history of our country.”
Democrats remained frustrated with Mr. DeJoy’s responses, saying he was skirting responsibility for changes implemented under his watch, which made him either incompetent or a liar.
Of particular frustration for them, Mr. DeJoy refused to commit to returning any of the decommissioned mail sorting machines.
Rep. Ro Khanna, California Democrat, asked “what’s the harm” in restoring the machines to bolster voter confidence in the integrity of the election.
“Get me the billion and I’ll put the machines in,” Mr. DeJoy said curtly.
House Democrats passed a bill on Saturday that would give the agency $25 billion, which was the same amount in their $3 trillion coronavirus package passed in May. During negotiations for a larger coronavirus-relief bill this month, the White House offered $10 billion.
Recent media reports have shown the postal service intended to put 671 high-volume sorting machines out of service.
The Postal Service said those removals were part of a routine policy of moving around sorting resources every year.
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