By Robert A. Vella
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy is back on the hot-seat today answering questions before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform about restructuring changes recently implemented which have slowed mail deliveries nationwide. Immediately after his appointment in mid-June, which coincided with attacks from President Trump on voting by mail and on the U.S. Postal Service itself (which Republicans have long wanted to destroy for ideological reasons), a series of cutbacks and capacity-reducing measures were initiated under his direction. It strains credulity that DeJoy, a Trump campaign donor, wasn’t trying to carryout Trump’s nefarious plans to rig the 2020 election (via voter suppression) and to use the USPS as a weapon against Amazon founder and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos.
We’ll also take a look at Trump’s corruption of the federal government to miraculously save his fading reelection chances, new developments in the poisoning of Vladimir Putin rival Alexei Navalny, and the rest of our Monday kickoff news coverage.
Louis DeJoy back on the hot-seat
[Postmaster General Louis] DeJoy acknowledged that a “deterioration in service” had occurred following changes to mail trucks taking additional trips, but he said the USPS was already seeing a bounce-back. And he argued that other changes, like the removal of mail-processing machines, were already happening before he took over in June.
“There are many inaccuracies about my actions that I wish to again correct,” DeJoy said. “First, I did not direct the removal of blue collection boxes or the removal of mail processing equipment. Second, I did not direct the cutback on hours at any of our postal offices, and finally I did not direct the elimination or any cutback in overtime. I did, however, suspend these practices to remove any misperceptions about our commitment to delivering the nation’s election mail.”
“This is just a disaster for the people who need their mail,” said House Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, a New York Democrat.
Maloney accused DeJoy of withholding information from Congress about USPS operations, threatening a subpoena if he did not comply with the panel’s requests. The committee released on Saturday an internal USPS slide presentation prepared for the Postmaster General last week that showed a significant reduction in service since the beginning of July — after DeJoy took over.
Maloney charged that if DeJoy was the CEO of a company with a “plummeting record” like he did, the CEO would be removed.
“That’s an unfair accusation,” DeJoy shot back.
Democrats also want to know more about what role Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has played, who was briefed by the Board of Governors on DeJoy’s appointment and negotiated a $10 billion loan that gave Treasury access to USPS contacts with major customers like Amazon. The House on Saturday approved a bill to give USPS an additional $25 billion.
The House voted this weekend to block the Trump administration’s handpicked Postmaster General Louis DeJoy from continuing changes to Postal Service operations that have contributed to widespread delays in mail delivery this summer. The House bill would infuse $25 billion into postal coffers, in part to handle the crush of mail-in ballots expected this fall. Senate leaders previously voiced support for some Postal Service aid, but the Senate is unlikely to consider the bill, which the president has pledged to veto after declaring it a “money wasting HOAX.”
On paper, the law treats the Postal Service as an “independent” agency. Congress and the president created it in 1970 in the wake of huge wildcat postal worker strikes. That new law removed the postmaster general from the president’s Cabinet. Instead, the law empowered the Postal Service Board of Governors to select a postmaster general.
In practice, as we’re seeing, presidents have not lost their ability to impose their agendas on the Postal Service. Through Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the president exploited the power to appoint postal governors, who then gave him Dejoy, his handpicked postmaster general. Given Trump’s personal vendetta against Amazon, the president has pushed the Postal Service to renegotiate delivery contracts with the company and other carriers, though there’s been no evidence of special treatment afforded Amazon. (Amazon founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.) Conservatives have long aimed to privatize the Postal Service rather than operate it as a public good. And DeJoy surely was aware of the president’s opposition to mail-in voting, which DeJoy’s changes could impede.
Trump tries to pull a rabbit out of a hat
President Donald Trump reportedly wants to bypass health regulations to approve a coronavirus vaccine before the US election.
He wants to give a vaccine being developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca emergency use authorization, allowing it to be rolled out in the US without meeting full regulatory approval, according to the Financial Times.
A representative for the Department of Health and Human Services said suggestions that the US Food and Drug Administration would fast-track the vaccine being developed in the UK were “absolutely false.”
Trump on Saturday accused the FDA of trying to delay a vaccine to hurt his chances in the November 3 election.
The UK government insists it will gain first access to Oxford’s vaccine if it is approved.
Former Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), a frequent critic of President Trump’s, is endorsing Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden along with several other former Republican lawmakers.
The Biden campaign announced the endorsements, first reported by Fox News, on Monday morning. The list includes other former members of Congress who had previously announced their support for Biden, including former Sens. John Warner (R-Va.) and Gordon Humphrey (R-N.H.), who is now an independent, and Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.).
Other former lawmakers on the list include former Reps. Steve Bartlett (R-Texas), Tom Coleman (R-Mo.), Bob Inglis (R-S.C.), Chris Shays (R-Conn.), Alan Steelman (R-Texas) and Jim Walsh (R-N.Y.).
“These former members of Congress cited Trump’s corruption, destruction of democracy, blatant disregard for moral decency, and urgent need to get the country back on course as a reason why they support Biden,” an official with the Biden campaign told Fox News. “These former Members of Congress are supporting Joe Biden because they know what’s at stake in this election and that Trump’s failures as President have superseded partisanship.”
Alexei Navalny poisoning
The German government says it is “fairly likely” that Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny was poisoned and will therefore need special protection.
Navalny is being treated in a Berlin hospital after falling ill on a flight from Siberia last week. He was transferred to the German capital from the Siberian city of Omsk on Saturday morning.
Navalny, a critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has been receiving treatment at Berlin’s Charite Hospital which, according to Seibert, will be providing updates on the opposition leader’s condition. Jaka Bizilj, chairman for Cinema for Peace Foundation, which organized the medical evacuation, told CNN on Saturday that Navalny was in a “stable condition.”
BERLIN (AP) — Tests conducted on Russian dissident Alexei Navalny at a German hospital indicate that he was poisoned, but doctors said Monday they do not believe his life at immediate risk.
The Charité hospital said in a statement that the team of doctors who have been examining Navalny since he was flown from Siberia and admitted Saturday have found the presence of “cholinesterase inhibitors” in his system.
Cholinesterase inhibitors are a broad range of substances that are found in several drugs, but also pesticides and nerve agents. However, doctors at Charite said at the moment the specific substance to which Navalny was exposed is not yet known.