U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and Postal Service Board of Governors Chairman Robert M. Duncan denied claims by Democrats that recent measures related to mail service were meant to impact the service's ability to handle mail-in voting for November's election.
The two men spoke at a House Oversight Committee hearing Monday titled "Protecting the Timely Delivery of Mail, Medicine, and Mail-in Ballots." Republicans criticized Democrats for holding the hearing two days after House Democrats passed a $25 billion bill to provide "emergency" funding to the postal service.
"Here we are having a hearing after a vote," Government Operations subcommittee ranking member Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga., said. "Certainly we have had many votes without bothering to have a hearing, but I don't ever recall having a vote to so-called fix something and then have the hearing afterwards. This is unprecedented, and again, to me I believe is an example of political malpractice on the side of the Democrats."
DeJoy, who took office in June, has been accused of intentionally worsening postal service so the USPS would not be able to handle a large volume of mail-in ballots for November's election. He denied this, claiming there have been "many inaccuracies" about his actions.
“First, I did not direct the removal of blue collection boxes or the removal of mail processing equipment," DeJoy said in his opening statement. "Second, I did not direct a cutback on hours at any of our post offices. And finally, I did not direct the elimination or any cutback in overtime.”
DeJoy elbow bumps with Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., the chair of the Oversight Committee, before a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing, Aug. 24, 2020, in Washington. (Tom Williams/Pool via AP)
“I did, however, suspend these practices to remove any misperceptions about our commitment to delivering this nation’s election mail," he continued. "Any further assertions by the media or electing officials is furthering a false narrative to the American people.”
Responding to questions from Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., DeJoy assured the committee that the USPS will be able to handle November's mail-in ballots.
“We will be able to handle all election mail for the 2020 election," DeJoy said.
Democrats have criticized DeJoy’s appointment because he has donated to President Trump’s campaign. Duncan, the Postal Board of Governors chairman, told the committee in a written statement that DeJoy’s selection was the result of an extensive search that included the use of two executive search firms, the vetting of 53 candidates and interviews with 14 of them.
Duncan wrote that the USPS is in a dire financial situation but has been for years, noting that it has faced more than a decade of losses, with an expected loss of $11 billion this year. He said that DeJoy, who has private sector experience, was brought on to reform the agency and improve it.
To that end, Duncan said that the Postal Board is focused on getting the USPS to function in a more efficient manner.
“Unfortunately,” he said in his written statement, "some have sought to argue that these long-needed reforms are intended to disrupt the ability of voters to use the mail for voting."
"Nothing could be farther from the truth," Duncan asserted. He also wrote that the USPS "will be prepared to safely, efficiently and securely help Americans participate in the democratic process, as we have done in the past."
Early in the hearing, Committee Chairwoman. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., displayed a slide presentation that she said was from a whistleblower. It showed that postal service delays had taken a turn for the worse during the time DeJoy has been on the job.
“We are very concerned with the deterioration in service,” DeJoy said, adding that he is already seeing a recovery.
Maloney accused DeJoy of downplaying the delays and asked why he had not turned over the document that she now has from the whistleblower. DeJoy said he was first asked for it on Friday and also noted that there are a number of reasons for why there have been delays.
Maloney demanded all relevant information from DeJoy by Wednesday and threatened to issue a subpoena if he does not comply.
The hearing quickly drew tense and at times hostile, as Democrats accused DeJoy of incompetence at best, and criminality at worst.
Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., stated that he has a number of family members who have worked for the Postal Service and berated DeJoy for the postal service's current state of affairs.
Lynch noted that mail continued to be delivered through the Civil War, World War I, the Spanish Flu, the Great Depression, and World War II, "the mail was delivered on time." He added that after 9/11, mail service continued despite anthrax scares and the deaths of two postal workers in Washington, D.C.
Presenting that context, Lynch noted that DeJoy removed 671 high-speed mail sorting machines during a pandemic and months before an election. He accused DeJoy of keeping the American Postal Workers Union from sorting mail and getting rid of delivery workers' overtime, which DeJoy had already denied doing.
"And for the first time in 240 years in our history of the United States Postal Service," Lynch continued, raising his voice, "you sent out a letter embarrassingly in July, to 46 states that said the post office can't guarantee that we can deliver the mail in time for the elections in November. And we have reports from across the country–as you acknowledge–service has been delayed and the mail is piling up. You have ended a once-proud tradition."
Those letters warned that states' deadlines for mailed ballots presented problems given the Postal Services' capabilities. In his prepared written statement to the committee, DeJoy had said that "state election deadlines often do not consider our delivery standards."
"In my heart, I'm tempted to ask," Lynch said, "after 240 years of patriotic service delivering the mail, how can one person screw this up in just a few weeks?"
Lynch concluded his tirade by stating that the facts on the ground could only lead him to two possible conclusions.
"One, either through gross incompetence, you have ended the 240-year history of delivering the mail reliably on time, or the second conclusion that we could gather is that you're doing this on purpose, and that you're deliberately dismantling this once-proud tradition," he said.
Lynch's time had expired at that point, but he insisted on one more question, shouting at DeJoy, "What the heck are you doing?"
DeJoy called Lynch's accusations "outrageous," only for Lynch to interject.
"Will you put the machines back?" Lynch asked.
"No, I will not," DeJoy responded, stating that Lynch's accusations were "inaccurate and more misinformation for the American public." In his written statement to the committee, DeJoy had explained that the reduction in mail sorting machines was due to existing letter sorting machines only being used for "32 percent of the available machine hours" and that number rising to only 38 for flat sorting machines.
Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., was more measured with his tone than Lynch but still escalated the tension even further, implying that DeJoy may have committed crimes.
Cooper began by stating that one of his constituents paid $5 to have mail sent to a social security office 20 miles away, and that it took 12 days to get there.
“Do you know that it’s a felony for a postal service officer or employee to delay delivery of mail?” he asked. “A postal employee can be fined or imprisoned for up to five years for delaying the mail, but somehow you can delay all the mail and get away with it?”
Cooper said that previous postmaster generals had to pay fines for conflicts of interest, and claimed that if DeJoy had to pay for his, it would amount to $2.7 million. Cooper asked DeJoy if he believes he is above the law that applied to his predecessors.
“I don’t agree with the premise. I’m in full compliance with all ethical requirements that I need to have,” DeJoy responded, noting that there is an inspector general investigation going on, and he awaits the report.
Cooper stated that DeJoy, as a “mega donor” to Trump’s campaign, had been picked to serve as a deputy finance chair for the Republican Party, along with Michael Cohen and Elliot Broidy, who have both been convicted of various offenses unrelated to that role.
Cooper asked if DeJoy paid back his past employees via bonuses or other means for them donating to Trump’s campaign.
“That’s an outrageous claim, sir, and I resent it,” DeJoy said, later adding, “The answer is no.” He said that he was not even working at the company during Trump’s campaign.
“What are you accusing me of?” DeJoy asked.
Cooper then asked if mail delays could be considered in-kind contributions to Trump’s 2020 campaign.
“I’m here to represent the Postal Service. All my actions have to do with improvements to the Postal Service,” he said. “Am I the only one in the room who understands that we have a $10 billion a year loss?”
Cooper’s final question left DeJoy laughing with disbelief.
“Mr. DeJoy, is your backup plan to be pardoned like Roger Stone?” Cooper asked. Stone, a former associate of Trump’s was not pardoned for his crimes, but the president commuted his sentence.
“I have no comment,” DeJoy said. “It’s not worth a comment.”
Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., also mentioned the mail sorting machines that were taken away, claiming that it was worth the cost to keep them even if they were unused if it meant maintaining the public’s trust. Khanna insisted that it would be worth it, even if it may cost nearly $1 billion.
“Let’s stipulate that you may be right about the efficiency—I disagree with you but let’s just stipulate that," Khanna said. "Now we have Donald Trump, the president, tweeting out yesterday that he’s up in the polls, he thinks he’s going to win. Nate Silver thinks Biden is going to win. I think everyone in this room can agree on one thing: whoever wins, the American people should have confidence in that result. So if it would cost less than a billion dollars, regardless of whether it’s efficient or not, what is the harm in just putting those machines back until election day just for the peace of mind, for the confidence of the American people?”
“You’re not going to give us a billion dollars. You’re going to make a request, you can’t get us a billion dollars,” DeJoy said. “You haven’t given us any money, you haven’t given us any legislation.”
Khanna continued, asking again.
“What is the harm to do it to Election Day?” Khanna asked.
“In Washington, it makes plenty sense. To me, it makes none," DeJoy said.
Finally, after a continued back and forth, DeJoy said he would do it in the event Khanna could deliver, which he doubted would happen.
“Get me the billion, and I’ll put in the machines in,” he said.
400 Bad Request
400 Bad Request