WASHINGTON (CN) — U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy drew subpoena threats Monday at the House as he dodged questions about operational changes like the reduction of mail-sorting machines and clawback of postal worker overtime in an election season poised to bring unprecedented mail-in ballots.
“You’re withholding information from us, concealing documents and downplaying the damage you are causing,” Representative Carolyn Maloney told DeJoy at a hearing of the House Oversight Committee, which she chairs. “This committee expects a full and complete production of all the documents you requested no later than this coming Wednesday. If you continue to withhold information or otherwise fail to comply, you can expect a subpoena.”
A New York Democrat, Maloney authored legislation passed by the House this weekend that approves $25 billion for the Postal Service while simultaneously stopping DeJoy from making changes to operations not already in place on Jan. 1 long before his appointment and before the Covid-19 pandemic upended life in the United States.
Displaying an open distrust of DeJoy, Democrats hammered the Trump appointee on Monday about a Friday appearance before the Senate where DeJoy offered a rosy and vague assessment on mail delays.
Though DeJoy was briefed on Aug. 12 about figures showing that delays were persistent across various services and had increased more under DeJoy’s appointment than in an earlier period, DeJoy told the Senate, without offering any new data or analysis, that the Postal Serivce is “starting to see a nice recovery.”
At Maloney's critique that such assessment would go over better with substantiating records, DeJoy was nonchalant. “We have a good shot at getting to the stated metrics that we are supposedly, you know, governed by," DeJoy said.
Tensions on Monday also ratcheted up over DeJoy’s role in decisions that reduced overtime for postal workers — reductions that the Postal Service itself has blamed as the principal cause of mail delays.
Separate internal documents released this month also indicate top-down directives calling for sweeping cuts to overtime. DeJoy contended Monday that most of those recommendations were not implemented, but others remain in in place like bans on extra delivery trips for trucks.
Insisting that any degradation in service will be temporary, DeJoy vowed before the House to work with postal unions, leadership and employees to handle mail efficiently for the 2020 election.
But this struck Representative Stephen Lynch as doublespeak. Blasting DeJoy for “running the U.S. Postal Service into the ground” in the 70 days he has helmed it, Lynch accused DeJoy of ending a “once-proud tradition.”
“How can one person screw this up in just a few weeks?” the Massachusetts Democrat asked. “I understand you bring private sector expertise. I guess we couldn’t find a government employee who could screw it up this fast.”
Lynch then demanded to know whether DeJoy — one of only five postmaster generals to ever serve in the role without first coming up the agency ranks — would commit at the hearing to replacing mail-sorting machines in time for the expected flood of mail-in ballots.
“I will not,” DeJoy said.
“There you go,” Lynch retorted.
Congressional Democrats have accused DeJoy of a conflict of interest, citing his history as a prominent donor to President Donald Trump’s campaign victory fund in 2016, among other Republican interests and causes.
Congressman Jim Cooper laced into DeJoy about those donations at Monday’s hearing, as well as DeJoy’s role as deputy finance chairman for the Republican National Convention hosting committee.
Asked if it was a tit-for-tat that earned him the postmaster spot, DeJoy called the claim “outrageous.”
“Is your back-up plan to be pardoned like Roger Stone,” Cooper asked, prompting audible groans from lawmakers.
Trump offered a sentencing commutation earlier this year to ensure that Stone, his longtime political ally, did not serve any jail time after he was found guilty of lying to Congress and witness tampering.
DeJoy does not face any criminal charges.
For his part, the postmaster general insisted the factors influencing delays were a result of gross underfunding and pressures leveled on the Postal Service by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I have no comment,” DeJoy said, suppressing a smile as he said he wouldn’t dignify the line of questioning.
He was also unable, after six hours in the committee room, to answer precisely who, if not himself, made the call for reduction to overtime.
During a sharp line of questioning, Representative Katie Porter asked DeJoy if he would commit to resigning if a review from the agency’s inspector general showed that he had committed any misconduct, either as postmaster or before as CEO of competing supply-chain companies XPO Logistics or New Breed Logistics. The California Democrat also asked if DeJoy would resign if it were discovered that his holdings or shares in Amazon constitute a conflict of interest?
“No,” DeJoy said flatly. “I don’t believe you will find misconduct, but I don’t see why I would commit here to resigning for any reason.”
Even as Porter earlier underlined her larger concerns on his qualifications —the postmaster was unable to tell her the price of a postcard nor how many Americans voted by mail in the last election — DeJoy was unfazed.
DeJoy said he heard “no reason” from lawmakers today that would prompt his resignation.
DeJoy initially divested a portion of his shares in USPS competitor Amazon. Financial disclosures reportedly show that not long after, however, he purchased financial interest in Amazon as well as stock options.
The Postal Service has stood behind DeJoy’s financial disclosures thus far, with its board of governors saying his ownership in XPO Logistics meets their ethical standards.
In addition to a subpoena for DeJoy that could come as early as Wednesday, seeking internal records on shakes up at the service, New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez probed DeJoy for access to his electronic calendars, all of which are held on the agency’s servers.
For her part, Representative Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts set a Friday deadline for the postmaster to offer up information on how the service tracks Covid-19 in its ranks. So far, 83 postal workers have died and more than 40,000 have become infected. The Postal Service employs more than half a million in the United States.
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