Defiant on Mail Delays, Trump-Installed Postmaster Faces Subpoena

Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., questions Postmaster General Louis DeJoy during an Aug. 24 hearing of the House Oversight and Reform Committee in Washington. (Tom Williams/Pool via AP)

WASHINGTON (CN) — Postmaster General Louis DeJoy was subpoenaed Wednesday for records that House Democrats say could illuminate causes of widespread mail delays as well as what led him to propose agency cutbacks. 

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney broadcast her plans to subpoena DeJoy late last month after going head to head with DeJoy at a hearing of the House Oversight Committee, which she chairs. A major Republican Party donor who worked in the private logistics sector prior to the 2016 election, DeJoy was installed at the U.S. Postal Service this past spring by President Donald Trump and quickly adopted a series of operational changes that slowed down mail at a time when voters across the country are using absentee ballots to avoid unnecessary public exposure during the coronavirus pandemic.

DeJoy has denied that his agency decisions are meant to help Trump win re-election in November, but under oath last month the postmaster was often unwilling or unable to answer questions from Democrats on the cause of mail delays that have increased since he took over in June. 

Maloney’s subpoena calls on DeJoy to remit “all documents and communications” on the proposed or actual changes to Postal Service policies, standards or operations since his appointment.

Scrutiny on DeJoy — who is the only postmaster general in two decades to lack experience in the Postal Service — has only increased in the weeks since leaked Postal Service memos showed a sweeping push to cut overtime, freeze executive hiring and ban extra mail deliveries. 

One memo featured directions to employees to leave mail behind at distribution centers, regardless of its priority.

Democrats in the House and Senate have argued such decisions smack of impropriety as the millions of Americans prepare to cast their votes for the upcoming election between Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden.

DeJoy’s decision to remove hundreds of mail sorting machines, the very devices that make processing mail considerably faster, have prompted critics to cry foul and, in at least one case, to litigate.

Several New York voters and political candidates behind an August class action say DeJoy’s retirement of 671 sorting machines guarantees with “virtual certainty” that massive numbers of mail-in ballots will not be processed in time.

DeJoy went before the Senate to face questions on operational changes a few days after the lawsuit was filed. Calling the insinuations that he was attempting to sabotage the November election “outrageous,” DeJoy blamed widespread mail delays on the pandemic and vowed to prioritize election mail.

Records of internal briefings given to the postmaster in mid-August meanwhile showed that DeJoy’s predecessor at the Postal Service had managed to get mail out faster in the early months of the pandemic.

It was only around mid-June, just after DeJoy officially settled into the role, that the processing rate dipped considerably.

Lawmakers pressed DeJoy at the House hearing last month to reinstate the machines, but DeJoy flatly refused and offered no testimony elaborating on his thinking beyond concerns over budget.

Wednesday’s subpoena demands details, correspondence and records related to sorting-machine removals, as well as any information regarding how resulting delays might affect delivery of election mail.

The subpoena also seeks records of discussions DeJoy had concerning the proposed changes and what their impact might be on seniors, veterans or other Americans who receive medicine by mail.

Briefings and communications on overtime with Postal Service officials are requested, as are aggregate data on the number of Postal Service employees infected with Covid-19. The subpoena additionally requests official quarantine rates and death counts.  

DeJoy has denied any influence on his decisions by Trump, who regularly, vociferously and without evidence complains about fraudulence in mail-in voting despite regularly making personal use of the absentee-ballot process.

To that end, the House Oversight Committee’s seeks correspondence on any consultation DeJoy received regarding the changes with individuals both inside and outside of the Postal Service.

Whatever records DeJoy created that may outline how he planned to mobilize “all available resources” to prioritize election mail before October 1 are also itemized in the subpoena.

The initial term sheet for the $10 billion loan given to the USPS by the Treasury Department and authorized by Congress is sought as well. And finally the subpoena requests any records surrounding DeJoy’s appointment by the all Republican Postal Service Board of Governors. 

DeJoy has until Sept. 16 to respond. 

Postal Service representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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