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House Democrats grill postmaster general over delays in mail delivery

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Lawmakers question postmaster general
Lawmakers question postmaster general 08:18

Washington — House Democrats grilled Postmaster General Louis DeJoy at a hearing on Monday over recent changes to the Postal Service that have slowed mail delivery, highlighting growing concerns about the service's ability to handle mail-in ballots ahead of the November election. 

"Our entire country is experiencing these delays as a result of Mr. DeJoy's actions," said Representative Carolyn Maloney, chairwoman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee. 

In his two months on the job, DeJoy has overseen a series of recent operational changes, such as eliminating most overtime and ending extra package deliveries. Democrats on the panel repeatedly attributed DeJoy's moves to either incompetence or a deliberate desire to hamper mail delivery ahead of the elections, when an influx of mail-in ballots are expected to be cast over concerns about the coronavirus.

The postmaster general defiantly rebuffed Democrats' accusations and defended his stewardship of the Postal Service, accusing House Democrats of spreading "misinformation" about his actions and reiterating that the USPS is "fully capable and committed to delivering the nation's ballots securely and on-time."

DeJoy suspended several changes after public outcry earlier this month, but told lawmakers on Monday that he would not reverse any of the measures that have already been implemented. Under questioning from Democrats, DeJoy refused to commit to restoring mail-sorting machines that have been removed from facilities in recent weeks, a move that raised alarms about delays in delivery.

U.S. Postmaster General DeJoy and USPS Board of Governors President Duncan testify at House Oversight Committee hearing on slowdowns at Postal Service on Capitol Hill in Washington
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy seen on Capitol Hill in Washington on Monday, August 24, 2020. TOM BRENNER / REUTERS

Republicans on the committee accused Democrats of perpetuating "conspiracy theories" about the Postal Service, defending DeJoy's integrity and commitment to the service.

Several Democrats raised concerns about DeJoy's history as an executive at companies that hold contracts with the Postal Service, as well as his ties to President Trump and the millions of dollars in donations he has made to the Republican Party and GOP candidates, including the president.

The hearing came after the House passed a bill on Saturday that would provide an additional $25 billion to the U.S. Postal Service, reverse the recent changes and prevent the agency from implementing any new changes until January 2021. Democrats say they are concerned that Mr. Trump is deliberately trying to curtail mail delivery to making casting absentee ballots more difficult.

 

DeJoy scoffs at idea of resigning if inspector general finds misconduct

Congresswoman Katie Porter, a Democrat from California, grilled DeJoy on his actions as postmaster general, and asked whether he will resign if the Postal Service's inspector general determines he has engaged in any misconduct. DeJoy also reiterated that he will not commit to reversing the changes to Postal Service procedures that occurred under his watch.

"Will you commit that if the inspector general finds that you committed misconduct with regards to your financial interest in any other company such as XPO Logistics, or Amazon, will you commit — if the inspector general finds that you committed misconduct — will you commit to then resigning?" Porter questioned. 

DeJoy responded: "I don't believe they will find misconduct, but I don't see why I would commit right here to resigning for any reason."

"You don't think there's any reason that you should ever resign?" Porter pressed.

"No reason that I've heard here today," DeJoy responded. 

DeJoy was also unable to answer several questions from Porter about the price of mailing a postcard, admitting he doesn't know much about postage costs. 

"I'll submit that I know very little about postage stamps," he said, although he correctly answered that a standard stamp costs $0.55. 

By Kathryn Watson
 

Ocasio-Cortez asks DeJoy for copy of calendar over conflict-of-interest concerns

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat from New York, raised concerns about potential conflicts of interest, given DeJoy's past role as an executive of a company that holds major contracts with the Postal Service.

Prior to becoming postmaster general, DeJoy had served as CEO of New Breed Logistics for more than 30 years until it merged with a larger firm, XPO Logistics, in 2014. He became CEO of XPO's North America business until 2015, and served on its board XPO until 2018.

Ocasio-Cortez pointed to DeJoy's background in business to ask whether he still has ties to his former company or colleagues. DeJoy said he hasn't taken any meetings with XPO executives while postmaster general, but noted he has "many friends at the company, and I've spoken to them casually over these several months." DeJoy became postmaster general in June.

Ocasio-Cortez then asked DeJoy if he keeps a daily calendar, which he said he did. The congresswoman asked if he or his staff had "made any deletions" to his calendar since June, to which DeJoy replied, "I don't think so." She then asked if he would provide a copy of his calendar to the committee, and DeJoy demurred.

"I don't know. I'll check with counsel," DeJoy said. "I don't want to set a precedent for my calendar to be submitted every two months."
 
Ocasio-Cortez pointed out that electronic calendars on USPS systems are considered agency records, and repeated her question.

"I'm new to this," DeJoy replied. "If that is in fact a process that our counsel says I must comply with, then I will do that." 

The congresswoman then turned to the chairwoman and said the contents of the calendar "are extraordinarily important to the committee's investigations, and if we cannot receive them voluntarily, I would recommend consideration of a subpoena for these details." 

By Stefan Becket
 

DeJoy says he'll restore sorting machines if Congress gives Postal Service $1 billion

DeJoy and Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna of California again went head-to-head over the removal of high-speed mail-sorting machines, with DeJoy saying that he will restore the machines if Congress approves $1 billion for the Postal Service.

"Get me the billion, and I'll put the machines in," DeJoy said.

DeJoy said their removal of the sorting machines was an initiative within the broader organization and estimated that restoring them would cost the Postal Service less than $1 billion.

"If it cost less than $1 billion, 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?" Khanna asked.

Dejoy stressed that past experience indicates it's unlikely Congress will successfully allocate the mail agency any additional money and said the machines are not needed to process election mail.

"You're not going to give us $1 billion," DeJoy told Khanna. "You're going to make a request, you have no way of getting us $1 billion. We haven't been funded in 10 years. You can't pass any legislation to help the Postal Service. It's a hypothetical."

The postmaster general then committed to returning the sorting machines if the Postal Service gets additional funding.

"We'll find a way to get you the money," Khanna said in response.

By Melissa Quinn
 

Democratic Congressman Jim Cooper asks DeJoy if his "backup plan" is to be pardoned

Congressman Jim Cooper, a Democrat from Tennessee, pressed DeJoy on his work as the deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee during the 2016 presidential campaign and suggested — without providing evidence — that DeJoy repaid employees of the logistics company he founded and ran until 2014 for contributing to the Trump campaign.

DeJoy, however, called it an "outrageous claim" and said "the answer is no." 

"I'm fully aware of legal campaign contributions and I resent the assertion, sir. What are you accusing me of?" he asked Cooper. 

DeJoy reiterated that he was before the committee to discuss the Postal Service and his efforts to cut costs at the agency and address delivery delays.

"Am I the only one in this room that understands that we have a $10 billion a year loss?" he said.

Cooper than asked DeJoy whether his "backup plan" is to receive a pardon from Mr. Trump like Roger Stone, whose 40-month prison sentence was commuted by the president.

"Oh god, pitiful," DeJoy says in response. "I have no comment on that. It's not worth the comment."

By Melissa Quinn
 

In heated exchange with Democratic rep, DeJoy says he won't return sorting machines

Congressman Stephen Lynch, a Democrat from Massachusetts, used his time to criticize DeJoy's handling of the Postal Service, wondering "how can one person screw this up in just a few weeks."

"Throughout the Postal Service's history, there's been a tradition of reliable delivery," Lynch said. "Two weeks ago, after you'd been postmaster general for just a few weeks, that all changed. In the middle of a pandemic that has killed 170,000 Americans, and on the eve of a national election, at a time when the CDC is advising people not to gather, limit outside contact, the Postal Service started removing 671 high-speed mail-sorting machines across the country."

As Lynch ended his monologue, DeJoy began to respond, calling the accusations "outrageous." Lynch interjected, asking DeJoy, "Will you put the machines back?" 

"No, I will not," he said, saying they are "not necessary."

"The answer is no, and every accusation you made, other than adhering to the truck schedule, is inaccurate and more misinformation for the American public," he added.

By Stefan Becket
 

Maloney threatens to subpoena DeJoy over documents request

Maloney pressed DeJoy on the August 12 presentation he received earlier this month that showed dips in service standards and suggested that it was deliberately withheld from the committee, which has requested a trove of documents from the Postal Service. The New York congresswoman said DeJoy can expect a subpoena if not all documents requested by the committee are turned over.

"You're withholding information from us, concealing documents and downplaying the damage that you're causing," she said.

Maloney called the delays a "disaster" for Americans who need swift delivery of their mail and said that if he were the CEO of a major company, he would be fired after just two months on the job.

But DeJoy pushed back on her criticisms and said it was he who requested the information about the Postal Service's performance in the first place.

"We are very concerned with the deterioration of service and are working very diligently," he said, adding that the agency is focused on reversing the delays and is already seeing a "big recovery."

By Melissa Quinn
 

DeJoy reiterates commitment to delivering ballots "securely and on-time"

U.S. Postmaster General DeJoy and USPS Board of Governors President Duncan testify at House Oversight Committee hearing on slowdowns at Postal Service on Capitol Hill in Washington
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy is seated to testify before a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on slowdowns at the Postal Service ahead of the November elections on Capitol Hill in Washington on August 24, 2020. TOM BRENNER / REUTERS

In his opening statement, DeJoy said he wanted to correct "many inaccuracies" about the changes he spearheaded in the two months since he took the helm of the Postal Service in June.

"First, I did not direct the removal of blue collection boxes or the removal of mail processing equipment. Second, I did not direct the cut back on hours at any of our post offices. Finally, I did not direct the elimination or any cutback in overtime," DeJoy told lawmakers. "I did, however, suspend these practices, to remove any misperceptions about our commitment to delivering the nation's election mail. Any further assertions by the media or elected officials is furthering a false narrative to the American people."

The postmaster general said that he did direct the Postal Service operations team to develop a plan to improve adherence to transportation schedules and installed a new organizational reporting structure.

"These two changes, creating our new on-time transportation network and designing an engaged functional organizational structure, will be the catalyst for the significant improvements in cost, performance and growth that I plan for this vital American Institution," he said.

DeJoy stressed that the Postal Service is "fully capable and committed to delivering the nation's ballots securely and on-time."

"This sacred duty is my number one priority between now and election day," he said. "To be clear, we will do everything we can to handle and deliver Election Mail in a manner consistent with the proven processes and procedures that we have relied on for years."

DeJoy urged Americans planning to vote-by-mail to request their ballots early and return them early.

By Melissa Quinn
 

Comer accuses Democrats of spreading "baseless conspiracy theory" about Postal Service

Congressman James Comer of Kentucky, the highest-ranking Republican on the committee, accused Democrats of spreading an unfounded conspiracy theory about the U.S. Postal Service and denounced his colleagues for passing legislation in a rare Saturday session that reverses operational changes recently imposed and would provide the Postal Service with $25 billion with moving through the legislative process.

"Democrats fabricated a baseless conspiracy theory about the Postal Service and hastily passed a bill Saturday before hearing from you, Mr. DeJoy," Comer said.

He accused Democrats and the media of whipping up a "hysterical frenzy" about the Postal Service, which hinged on recent reports about the removal of blue collection boxes and warnings from the agency to 46 states that some mail-in ballots may not be received in time to be counted because their vote-by-mail laws are "incongruous" with Postal Service standards.

"Democratas are not serious about meaningful reforms," Comer said, calling the efforts by the lawmakers to halt the changes a "political stunt."

By Melissa Quinn
 

Maloney pins mail delays on DeJoy

In her opening remarks kicking off the Oversight Committee's hearing, Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney of New York said the delays in the delivery of mail, prescriptions and food that have been reported coincided with the changes DeJoy implemented after he took the helm of the Postal Service in June.

Maloney said her committee received a presentation prepared for DeJoy and dated August 12 that shows drops in service standards across various classes of mail beginning in late June and early July.

"This document shows that these delays are not a myth or conspiracy theory, as some of my colleagues argue," she said. "These steep declines did not start in April or May when the corona crisis hit us, but in July when Mr. DeJoy came on board and began making his changes. Our entire country is experiencing these delays as a result of Mr. DeJoy's actions, such as his decision to restrict the number of trips from processing plants to delivery units."

Maloney reiterated the complaints lawmakers are hearing from constituents about the delays and questioned DeJoy's motivations for ordering changes that would slow down delivery.

"Perhaps this was intentional. Maybe Mr. DeJoy was warned that his changes would cause delays, but he disregarded those warnings. That would be extremely reckless in the middle of a global pandemic with less than three months before an important election," she said. "Or, perhaps there is a far simpler explanation. Perhaps Mr. DeJoy is just doing exactly what President Trump said he wanted on national television, using the blocking of funds to justify sweeping changes to hobble mail-in voting."
 
All options, Maloney said, "are bad."

By Melissa Quinn
 

Democrats preview their line of questioning for DeJoy

Democrats indicated to reporters that they will question DeJoy about delays in mail delivery. Congressman Jamie Raskin said Saturday that he would ask DeJoy what he intended "to accomplish by all of these radical changes a couple of months before the election." In a hearing before the Senate on Friday, DeJoy argued that the recent changes were underway by the time he began the position in June.

In an interview with CBS News last week, Congressman Ro Khanna said he would ask DeJoy about "what he's going to do to correct the situation." Khanna said he would ask DeJoy whether he intends to restore mailboxes and sorting machines which have been removed. DeJoy told the Senate that he would not be replacing these machines, saying it was protocol to remove them.

"I just think we need to get as many commitments as possible and then get specific legislative oversight so that's there's no wiggle room," Khanna said about what he expects from DeJoy.

By Grace Segers
 

DeJoy says Postal Service is "fully capable" of delivering election mail on time

DeJoy assured members of the Senate Friday that the U.S. Postal Service will be able to process the nation's mail-in ballots in November.

"As we head into the election season, I want to assure this committee, and the American public, that the Postal Service is fully capable of delivering the nation's election mail securely and on time," DeJoy said. He testified Friday before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

DeJoy said Friday he is "extremely highly confident" the Postal Service will be able to ensure that mailed ballots sent seven days before Election Day will be processed and counted. "We will scour every plant each night leading up to Election Day," he vowed. 

He also expressed support for mail-in voting, telling senators, "I think the American public should be able to vote by mail, and the Postal Service will support it." 

He also denied having consulted Mr. Trump about the post office.

"I have never spoken to the president about the postal service," DeJoy said. He also said he never spoken to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin or White House chief of staff Mark Meadows about changes to service.

Read more here.

By Grace Segers
 

Lawmakers question USPS board member's role in choice of DeJoy

In a letter to board member John Barger, Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi and Congresswoman Katie Porter noted that the firm Russell Reynolds Associates was contracted to research and recommend a new candidate for postmaster general, who is elected by the nine-person Board of Governors. The two lawmakers said DeJoy was not recommended by the firm but by Barger directly.

"According to individuals familiar with the process, Mr. Louis DeJoy was never recommended by this firm but was rather introduced by you to the selection committee," Krishnamoorthi and Porter wrote. "It would have been irregular for a member of the USPS Board of Governors, such as yourself, to recommend Mr. DeJoy without the consultation, research, or support of the contracted hiring firm Russell Reynolds Associates."

The two noted that former vice chairman of the Board of Governors, David Williams, had raised concerns about the process that culminated in DeJoy's selection. Barger told The New York Times that he "never heard an objection from David Williams about any of the candidates, other than the ones we did not hire." Williams resigned as vice chairman in April, shortly before DeJoy was appointed.

Krishnamoorthi and Porter noted that Barger has an "extensive record" of financial contributions to Republican Party officials, and that he had made several donations to them while he sat on the USPS Board of Governors. Barger was appointed by President Trump in August 2019.

Read more here.

By Grace Segers
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