WASHINGTON — Democrats used a Monday hearing on Capitol Hill to savage U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, whom they accused of intentionally sabotaging the nation’s postal system in order to help President Trump’s reelection prospects.
“Either through gross incompetence you have ended the 240-year history of delivering the mail reliably on time, or the second conclusion we can gather is, you’re doing this on purpose,” said Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., in a particularly heated exchange with DeJoy, a longtime Republican fundraiser who has donated to the Trump campaign and other Republican efforts.
“What the heck are you doing?” a furious Lynch wondered at one point.
DeJoy was testifying before the House Oversight Committee, his second time in front of Congress. On Friday he defended his controversial tenure as the postmaster general, which only began in June. During that hearing, before a Senate committee, DeJoy maintained that he was not responsible for measures that seemed intended to reduce the postal service’s capacity to process mail just weeks before millions start voting in a presidential election.
“I think the American public should be able to vote by mail,” DeJoy said on Friday, revealing that he himself votes that way. So does Trump, though he has continued to make unfounded allegations about electoral fraud that he insists — without offering any evidence — will help his Democratic opponent, Joe Biden.
Trump amplified those concerns during his address to the Republican National Convention on Monday afternoon, which was delivered as DeJoy testified on Capitol Hill. “The only way they can take this election away from us is if this is a rigged election,” Trump said.
Also testifying before the House Oversight Committee was Robert Duncan, who heads the postal service’s board of governors. HuffPost reported on Monday that, when Duncan was the top attorney for the Republican National Committee more than a decade ago, the RNC “and its state counterparts oversaw an unprecedented escalation of voter disenfranchisement efforts in swing states.” (Yahoo News and HuffPost are both part of VerizonMedia.) His official biography touts his fundraising efforts for the Republican Party, and he continues to run American Crossroads, a political action group working to reelect Trump.
Duncan could not say how DeJoy came to be selected as postmaster general. He had not been among the 53 candidates presented to the board of governors; Duncan himself pushed for DeJoy’s selection, at the apparent behest of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
Facing intense criticism for his leadership of the post office, DeJoy attempted to distance himself from the most controversial actions taken during his tenure, including the removal of mailboxes and sorting machines, a curb on overtime pay and the cutting back of hours for some post office branches.
Describing himself as having “nothing to do with” these controversial decisions, DeJoy said the directive to stop overtime pay had been undertaken by lower-level officials. He and Republicans on the committee accurately noted that mailboxes had been removed during the Obama administration too.
“We will be able to handle all election mail for the 2020 election,” DeJoy said, even as he continued to insist it was necessary to put the postal service in sounder financial health.
DeJoy’s assurances were met with widespread skepticism from Democrats, who over the weekend passed a $25 billion measure intended to bolster the postal system ahead of November’s election. They depicted the Brooklyn-born trucking magnate as both inexperienced and overtly political. Near the end of the hearing, Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., blasted him as “a novice who has absolutely no business leading a government agency.”
By that point, DeJoy had testified for about five hours. He looked tired and annoyed, and did not bother to hide the fact. “I had a perfectly good life prior to this,” he complained.
Like many other Trump appointees new to public service, he appears to have discovered the challenges of working within a federal bureaucracy, of which accountability to Congress is a key feature.
Stressing that point, House Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney threatened to subpoena DeJoy unless he turned over documents related to his administration of the postal system by Wednesday. “You’re withholding information from us, concealing documents and downplaying the damage that you’re causing.”
Later, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., requested that DeJoy turn over his calendars. Like many of her fellow Democrats, she appeared skeptical of assertions he made about having no contact with the Trump administration about his work as postmaster general.
At times, Democrats seemed more interested in lashing DeJoy than in questioning him on substantive issues. “Mr. DeJoy, is your backup plan to be pardoned like Roger Stone?” wondered Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn. Stone was a longtime Trump adviser who’d been found guilty of lying to federal authorities. He was pardoned by the president as he was set to head to prison.
The comparison did not seem to please DeJoy. He looked down and laughed.
Shaking his head, he said that he had no comment.
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