The internal watchdog for the U.S. Postal Service has launched an investigation into recent changes made at post offices across the country by the new postmaster general, who is a Trump appointee, CBS News has confirmed.
Senator Elizabeth Warren led a group of Democrats last week in requesting that the Postal Service inspector general probe staffing and policy changes made under Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, such as eliminating most overtime.
"Recent changes have slowed mail delivery, threatening the well-being of millions of Americans who rely on the Postal Service for delivery of Social Security checks, prescriptions, and everyday mail of all kinds – and they appear to pose a potential threat to mail-in ballots and the 2020 general election," Warren's office said in a statement last week calling for the probe.
On Friday, Warren spokesperson Saloni Sharma said they have learned the Postal Service inspector general is investigating "all aspects" of their request. In a separate statement, inspector general spokesperson Agapi Doulaveris said, "We are in receipt of the congressional request and are conducting a body of work to address concerns raised."
The Democrats also requested that the inspector general assess whether DeJoy and his wife – who "reportedly own assets worth tens of millions of dollars in Postal Service competitors and contractors," according to the statement from Warren's office – have fully complied with ethics requirements.
Democrats say the changes at post officers are part of a concerted effort to sabotage the 2020 election. "The removal of equipment within the postal offices and the rest is to undermine the postal service at a time when the postal service is needed more than ever," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on MSNBC Friday.
Earlier this month, DeJoythat the Postal Service is deliberately slowing down the delivery of election-related mail, after it implemented new practices like eliminating most overtime.
"Let me be clear that, with regard to election mail, the Postal Service and I are fully committed to fulfilling our role in the electoral process," DeJoy said at a meeting of the Postal Service Board of Governors. "We will do everything that we can to deliver election mail in a timely manner consistent with our operational standards, and despite any assertions to the contrary, we are not slowing down election mail or any other mail."
DeJoy is a businessman who contributed to President Trump and Republican causes before he was appointed postmaster general in May.
Meanwhile, the Postal Service haswarning that their mail-in ballots may not be counted in time because their provisions for voting by mail "are incongruous" with post office delivery standards. Letters that indicated concerns about on-time ballots have been sent to 41 states.
Congress and the White House are locked in a stalemate over a coronavirus relief bill, with the Postal Service hanging in the balance. A bipartisan group of senators have proposed providing an additional $25 billion to the agency, which faces a financial crisis exacerbated by the pandemic.
While President Trump had indicated he would not support a financial bailout for the Postal Service, he said Friday he would support it "if they (Democrats) gave us what we want" – that is, a payroll tax cut and more loans for small businesses.
Mr. Trump has frequently repeated the false claim that mail-in voting leads to voter fraud, even as he requested a mail-in ballot in Florida. The National Association of Letter Carriers, which represents 300,000 retired and active postal service workers, has endorsed Joe Biden for president.
Weijia Jiang and Caroline Linton contributed to this report.