House Democrats Call for FBI Criminal Probe of USPS, Claiming Leaders Have ‘Retarded the Passage of Mail’

August 17, 2020 Updated: August 17, 2020

Two House Democrats have called on the FBI to launch an investigation to establish whether the leadership of the United States Postal Service (USPS) committed any crimes in connection with reports of mail delays.

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) said in a statement on Aug. 17 that they have asked federal investigators to probe whether Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, or members of the USPS Board of Governors, have committed any crimes.

“Multiple media investigations show that Postmaster DeJoy and the Board of Governors have retarded the passage of mail,” the two wrote in a letter addressed to FBI Director Christopher Wray (pdf). “If their intent in doing so was to affect mail-in balloting or was motivated by personal financial reasons, then they likely committed crimes.”

The two Democrats—both members of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security—said in their letter that there is “overwhelming evidence” that USPS authorities have hindered the passage of mail. They cited reports about the dismantling of 19 mail sorting machines and a recent announcement by USPS that the agency warned 46 states that their election laws allow such tight deadlines for voters to request blank ballots that it amounts to a “mismatch” with the Postal Service’s delivery standards and so carries the risk of completed ballots arriving too late to be counted.

The lawmakers also claimed to have evidence that DeJoy has a financial stake in entities that are competitors of the Postal Service and implied that the organizational and operational changes made by the postmaster may have impaired the performance of the USPS and so driven up the value of its competitors.

“If Postmaster General DeJoy instituted these sweeping changes at the Post Office that ‘obstructs or retards the passage of the mail’ for his own personal financial benefit, then that would be a violation of 18 U.S.C. Section 1701,” they wrote, noting also that breaking this law carries a punishment of a fine or six months in jail.

The USPS didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Epoch Times Photo
U.S. Postal Service mail carrier Lizette Portugal finishes loading her truck amid the COVID-19 pandemic in El Paso, Texas, on April 30, 2020. (Paul Ratje/AFP via Getty Images)

In July, DeJoy imposed cost-cutting measures meant to address the Postal Service’s longtime financial problems, including cutting overtime. Lawmakers from both parties criticized the changes, with 84 House members, including four Republicans, arguing in a recent letter that it is “vital that the Postal Service does not reduce mail delivery hours, which could harm rural communities, seniors, small businesses and millions of Americans who rely on the mail for critical letters and packages.”

DeJoy insisted in Aug. 7 remarks that, despite recent cuts to operating expenses to help the agency shore up its finances amid what he said was a “dire” financial position, the Postal Service is “not slowing down Election Mail or any other mail.” He added that the USPS remains “fully committed to fulfilling [its] role in the electoral process,” and that the agency “will do everything [it] can to deliver Election Mail in a timely manner consistent with our operational standards.”

“We continue to employ a robust and proven process to ensure proper handling of all Election Mail,” he said.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump said that managerial changes at the USPS that have been blamed for mail delays across the country are, in fact, aimed at fixing what he called a long-term “disaster” in its finances.

“This isn’t a Trump thing. This has been one of the disasters of the world, the way it’s been run,” Trump said in an Aug. 17 interview on Fox & Friends. “What am I supposed to do, let it continue to be run badly?”

DeJoy recently said the USPS lost $9 billion in 2019 and “2020 closing in on $11 billion in losses.”

“Our financial position is dire, stemming from substantial declines in mail volume, a broken business model, and a management strategy that has not adequately addressed these issues,” he said.

“Despite our very significant challenges, I remain optimistic about the future of the Postal Service, but we need to get moving to effect change immediately,” DeJoy said, adding that he intends to continue to improve operational efficiency and push ahead with other reforms.

Lawmakers in Washington have raised concerns about delays in mail delivery amid reorganization efforts at the Postal Service.

Prior to the letter by Lieu and Jeffries, a group of Senate Democrats wrote to DeJoy on Aug. 12, citing reports that USPS told state election officials it won’t automatically treat all election mail, including that sent via the cheaper, slower Marketing Mail option, as First Class.

“Prior to 2020, it was the practice of the Postal Service to prioritize the delivery of all election mail, including voter-registration materials, absentee ballot requests, and ballots, to meet the equivalent of First Class delivery times no matter what class of mail was used to send it,” the lawmakers wrote, asking DeJoy pointedly, “Will the Postal Service commit to continuing this practice?”

The lawmakers asked DeJoy to provide answers by Aug. 25 to that and other questions, including to indicate what service standards postal workers have been directed to apply to election mail.

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