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Trump admits to blocking postal cash to hamper mail-in votes

Eric Severson holds a sign as a few dozen people gather in front of the United States Post Office on Rodd St. to protest recent changes to the U.S. Postal Service under new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020 in Midland, Mich.
Eric Severson holds a sign as a few dozen people gather in front of the United States Post Office on Rodd St. to protest recent changes to the U.S. Postal Service under new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020 in Midland, Mich. (Katy Kildee/Midland Daily News via AP)

WASHINGTON (AP): President Donald Trump frankly acknowledged that he's starving the U.S. Postal Service of money to make it harder to process an expected surge of mail-in ballots, which he worries could cost him reelection.

In an interview on Fox Business Network, Trump explicitly noted two funding provisions that Democrats are seeking in a relief package that has stalled on Capitol Hill. Without the additional money, he said, the Postal Service won't have the resources to handle a flood of ballots from voters who are seeking to avoid polling places during the coronavirus pandemic.

"If we don't make a deal, that means they don't get the money," Trump told host Maria Bartiromo on Thursday. "That means they can't have universal mail-in voting; they just can't have it."

Trump's statements, including the false claim that Democrats are seeking universal mail-in voting, come as he is searching for a strategy to gain an advantage in his November matchup against Joe Biden. He's pairing the tough Postal Service stance in congressional negotiations with an increasingly robust mail-in-voting legal fight in states that could decide the election.

In Iowa, which Trump won handily in 2016 but is more competitive this year, his campaign joined a lawsuit Wednesday against two Democratic-leaning counties in an effort to invalidate tens of thousands of voters' absentee ballot applications. That followed legal maneuvers in battleground Pennsylvania, where the campaign hopes to force changes to how the state collects and counts mail-in ballots. And in Nevada, Trump is challenging a law sending ballots to all active voters.

His efforts could face limits. The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday rebuffed Republicans who challenged an agreement in Rhode Island allowing residents to vote by mail through November's general election without getting signatures from two witnesses or a notary.

Trump's new remarks are a clear admission that the president is attempting to restrict voting rights. Biden said it was "Pure Trump. He doesn't want an election."

Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold said it was "voter suppression to undermine the safest method to vote during a pandemic, and force Americans to risk their lives to vote."

The House of Representatives has passed legislation for a total of $10 billion for the Postal Service on the COVID-19 response bill. That figure, which would include money to help with election mail, is down from a $25 billion original plan. Trump has vowed to veto the bill, which is being held up by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy is the first postmaster general in nearly two decades who is not a career postal employee. He was appointmed to the post by the U.S.P.S. Board of Governors. The Board is made up of nine Governors appointed by the President of the United States with the advice and consent of the Senate. DeJoy, severely lacking in postal management experience, most likely received his position as a result of major donations to Trump and other Republican campaigns, and is complicit in efforts to cripple the USPS. Memos obtained by The Associated Press show that Postal Service leadership has pushed to eliminate overtime and halt late delivery trips that are sometimes needed to ensure mail arrives on time, measures that postal workers and union officials say are delaying service. Additional records detail cuts to hours at post offices, including reductions on Saturdays and during lunch hours. Note that Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has a $70 million investment in companies that compete directly with the United States Postal Service, making him a dubious choice for the position

DeJoy has received several bi-partisan letters asking him to reverse his changes and criticizing a lack of openness by the agency.
"Instead of taking steps to increase your agency's ability to deliver for the American people, you are implementing policy changes that make matters worse, and the Postal Service is considering changes that would increase costs for states at a time when millions of Americans are relying on voting by mail to exercise their right to vote."

Separately, in a letter last month, the Postal Service warned Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson that the agency might not be able to deliver ballots in time to be counted under the state's deadlines for casting mail-in votes.
"The man in charge of OUR Postal Service has plenty to gain from its destruction."

Judy Beard, legislative and political director for the American Postal Workers Union, said, "We definitely know that the president is absolutely wrong concerning vote-by-mail,"

Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., chair of the House subcommittee on government operations, said Trump is acknowledging that he wants to hold up funding for the U.S. Postal Service to hinder Americans from voting.
"The president admits his motive for holding USPS funding hostage is that he doesn't want Americans to vote by mail," Connolly said in a statement Thursday. "Why? It hurts his electoral chances. He's putting self-preservation ahead of public safety, for an election he deserves to lose."

Trump has requested a mail-in ballot for Florida's primary election Tuesday. Ballots were mailed Wednesday to both the president and first lady Melania Trump at the Mar-a-Lago resort, which Trump lists as his legal address, according to online Palm Beach County elections records. Both voted by mail in the presidential preference primary in March, according to records.

The Associated Press produced this coverage with support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York.