Trump acknowledges blocking Postal Service money to thwart mailed ballots

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WKBT) — President Donald confessed Thursday that he is blocking funding for the U.S. Postal Service to make it harder to process an anticipated surge in mail-in ballots that he frets could cost him re-election.
During an interview on the Fox Business Network, Trump cited two funding provisions Democrats want in a relief package that is stalled on Capitol Hill.
Without the additional money, the Postal Service won’t have the resources to handle a flood of mailed ballots from voters who want to avoid polling places during the coronavirus pandemic, the president said.
“If we don’t make a deal, that means they don’t get the money,” Trump told host Maria Bartiromo. “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 his campaign strives to gain an advantage in his November matchup with Joe Biden. He is pairing the tough Postal Service stance in congressional negotiations with an increasingly robust legal fight against mail-in votes in states that ultimately might 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.
Absentee ballot applications, which voters must request, are different from the method some states use, mailing ballots to all registered voters.
The Iowa suit 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.
The president’s efforts could encounter roadblocks.
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.
Democrats interpreted Trump’s remarks as an admission that he is attempting to restrict voting rights. His comments also seemed to dovetail with allegations that the new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy — a major donor to Trump and other Republicans — is instituting measures intended to slow down mail delivery and undercut mailed votes.
“Pure Trump,” Biden said. “He doesn’t want an election.”
Biden’s campaign insisted that the president’s actions amount to sabotage.
Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold said it is “voter suppression to undermine the safest method to vote during a pandemic, and force Americans to risk their lives to vote.”
Negotiations over a big new virus relief package are stymied, with the White House and congressional leaders far apart on the size, scope and approach for shoring up households, reopening schools and launching a national strategy to contain the coronavirus.
Although there is some common ground on $100 billion for schools and new funds for virus testing, Trump rejects other emergency funds that Democrats want.
“They want $3.5 billion for something that will turn out to be fraudulent. That’s election money, basically,” Trump said during his call-in Fox interview, renewing his disputed allegation that mailed voting systems are fraught with fraud.
Democrats have pushed for $10 billion for the Postal Service in talks with Republicans on the COVID-19 response bill. That figure includes money to help with election mail, but it is less than a $25 billion plan in a House-passed coronavirus measure.
DeJoy has said that the agency is in a financially untenable position, but he maintains it can handle election mail. DeJoy is the first postmaster general in nearly two decades who is not a career postal employee.
“Although there will likely be an unprecedented increase in election mail volume due to the pandemic, the Postal Service has ample capacity to deliver all election mail securely and on-time, in accordance with our delivery standards, and we will do so,” DeJoy told the Postal Service’s governing board last week.
Memos obtained by The Associated Press show that Postal Service leadership has pushed to eliminate overtime and halt late delivery trips that sometimes are needed to ensure that mail arrives on time.
Postal workers and union officials say those measures are delaying service. Additional records detail cuts to hours at post offices, including reductions on Saturdays and during lunch hours.
Democrats, and a handful of Republicans, have sent DeJoy several letters asking him to reverse his changes.
Late Wednesday, Senate Democrats wrote DeJoy again, contending that postal leadership is pushing state election officials to opt for pricier first-class postage for mail-in ballots instead of the traditional bulk rate.
“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 reportedly 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,” the Democrats wrote.
Postal Service spokesman David Partenheimer issued a statement saying, “Certain deadlines concerning mail-in ballots may be incompatible with the Postal Service’s delivery standards,” especially if election officials don’t pay more for first-class postage.