WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump said Monday he wants to “speed up” U.S. mail delivery even as opposition Democrats are planning to vote this week to curb changes at the Postal Service they claim would inhibit the processing of an expected sharp increase in mailed-in ballots in November’s national presidential election.
“I have encouraged everybody to speed up the mail, not slow the mail,” Trump told reporters outside the White House, before leaving for campaign appearances in the Midwestern states of Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Trump said last week he opposes $28 billion in new funding for the postal agency, part of it to pay for the collection and processing of an expected onslaught of millions of mailed-in ballots from voters too afraid to go to polling places during the coronavirus pandemic. For months, Trump has claimed without evidence that states mailing out ballots to voters will lead to election fraud and a rigged vote against him.
He defended one of his political appointees and a major Republican campaign donor, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, for taking substantial steps to curb costs at the Postal Service and improve its performance.
“I’m just making it good,” Trump told Fox News in an interview. “We have a very, very good business guy running it, and I want to make — I jokingly say, but it’s true — I want to make the post office great again, OK?
“It’s been run horribly, and we’re going to make it good,” he said. “Now, what am I supposed to do? Let it continue to run badly? So, if you fix it, they say, ‘Oh, he’s tampering with the election.’ No, we’re not tampering.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday called the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives back into session from its summer recess to vote on the Postal Service funding and restore DeJoy-instituted changes they claim would possibly keep mailed-in ballots from arriving at election offices throughout the country in time to be counted in the Nov. 3 election.
DeJoy has agreed to testify next Monday before the House Oversight Committee about the Postal Service operations and the changes he has made.
Pelosi accused Trump of conducting a "campaign to sabotage the election” by manipulating the Postal Service to disenfranchise voters.
“The Postal Service is a pillar of our democracy, enshrined in the Constitution and essential for providing critical services: delivering prescriptions, Social Security checks, paychecks, tax returns and absentee ballots to millions of Americans, including in our most remote communities,” Pelosi said.
The House is planning votes in a rare Saturday session, but it is not clear whether Trump would approve of increased Postal Service funding, even if the Republican-controlled Senate also approves the legislation.
Trump contended the Democratic-initiated vote is an attempt by Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer to pressure his administration to provide more coronavirus aid. The White House and opposition Democrats have been unable to agree on extending the national government’s unemployment assistance to millions of jobless workers and other financial help to American families and businesses.
After saying he opposed the increased Postal Service funding, Trump said he would approve the funds if Democrats pass the coronavirus relief package Republicans favor.
Trump also offered a mixed assessment of the Postal Service operation. Trump said he was not worried about Postal Service cutbacks keeping Americans from receiving medical prescriptions, but that the deficit-ridden agency needs to improve its financial condition.
“The post office is running very well,” he said. “The post office - now look - if you look at the post office, for years that’s all people complained about. We’re going to run it well, and we’re going to not lose so much money.
“One of the things the post office is losing so much money on is delivering packages for (warehouse retailer) Amazon and these others,” he said. “Every time they deliver a package, they probably lose $3 to $4. That’s not good. They have to raise those prices, OK? Not for the people to pay, but for Amazon and those companies to pay.”
Studies have shown, however, that the Postal Service profits from delivering packages but loses money overall because fewer people are mailing first-class letters these days or paying bills through the mail and instead paying their monthly obligations online.
The Postal Service receives no government funding, instead relying on money it collects from purchase of stamps, delivery fees and sale of postal-related merchandise.
In a Sunday interview on CNN, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows denied charges that Trump is trying to manipulate the voting process.
“The president of the United States is not going to interfere with anybody casting their votes in a legitimate way whether it’s the post office or anything else,” Meadows said.
But he said the White House is afraid that an avalanche of mail-in ballots will postpone the results of the 2020 election.
“A number of states are now trying to figure out how they are going to go to universal mail-in ballots,” Meadows said. “That’s a disaster where we won’t know the election results on Nov. 3, and we might not know it for months.”
Nine of the 50 states are planning to conduct their voting in November almost exclusively by mail. Millions of voters in other states can get a mail-in ballot if they ask for one. Trump and first lady Melania Trump have already requested mail-in ballots in their adopted home state of Florida.
Trump has said there is a difference between a mail-in ballot that states have automatically sent to voters even though they did not request one and an absentee ballot a voter requested.
Many analysts say there is no evidence that voting by mail gives one party an advantage over the other and says making it harder to cast a ballot through the mail could backfire on the Republicans, who tend to be older voters who may prefer to vote by mail rather than in person in a pandemic. Trump says mail-in voting favors Democrats.