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Postmaster General Does 180 After Outrage and Legal Threats; Critics Decry ‘Zero Commitment to Restore Services’

U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy said the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) would perform an about-face move on recent and controversial operations changes in response to fever pitch-level outcries largely focused on the agency’s ability to timely deliver mail-in ballots for the 2020 general election.

“The United States Postal Service will play a critical role this year in delivering election mail for millions of voters across the country,” his Tuesday afternoon statement begins. “There has been a lot of discussion recently about whether the Postal Service is ready, willing and able to meet this challenge.”

Aside from discussion, there have been multiple legal challenges mounted against those “operational initiatives.”

On Monday, House candidate Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.) and some of his colleagues announced a lawsuit aimed at those reforms.

“In the midst of a global pandemic requiring more Americans to vote by mail than ever before, the USPS provides a public service that is essential to free and fair elections this November,” Jones said. “The actions of the President and Postmaster General to undermine the USPS are a deliberate assault on our democracy. I will not stand idly by while Trump makes his latest interference in our electoral process. This isn’t just an attack against the fabric of our democracy — it’s a personal attack against each and every American citizen.”

Voters from four different states also filed a lawsuit against DeJoy and President Donald Trump on Monday that claimed the changes–ostensibly aimed at bringing the agency’s budget into line–were actually aimed at infringing upon their right to vote.

“In short, DeJoy, doing Trump’s public bidding, has ensured even greater chaos in the Fall elections, putting his thumb on the electoral scales to help ensure Trump’s reelection and/or provide grounds for an election contest – not to mention helping Trump sow doubt in the minds of Americans about the integrity of the electoral process and the outcome itself, a loathsome tactic once associated only with tin-horn dictators and banana republics,” the voters’ filing alleges.

On Tuesday, attorneys general in over 20 states–led by Pennsylvania–announced their intent to file their own lawsuit against the 45th president and his mega-donor DeJoy over their efforts to sabotage the USPS in order to disrupt the fall election.

Those legal actions–threatened and filed–came on the heels of multiple media reports about the removal of mail sorting machines across the country and anecdotal evidence of extreme slow-downs in mail delivery times. Congressional Democrats responded to the media furor by threatening to subpoena and arrest DeJoy and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called the House back into session in order to vote on an increased USPS funding proposal.

USPS Inspector General Tammy Whitcomb announced the oversight agency was looking into DeJoy’s actions in response to a request from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) late last week.

Additionally, hundreds of protesters demonstrated right outside of DeJoy’s home in Greensboro, North Carolina calling for an end to the widely-criticized cutbacks on Sunday.

Perhaps cognizant of those concerns, the postmaster general announced he was slamming the brakes on changes to the revered agency–despite a recent memo that promised those previously bi-partisan neoliberal reforms were going forward as planned.

“I came to the Postal Service to make changes to secure the success of this organization and its long-term sustainability,” DeJoy’s statement says. “I believe significant reforms are essential to that objective, and work toward those reforms will commence after the election. In the meantime, there are some longstanding operational initiatives — efforts that predate my arrival at the Postal Service — that have been raised as areas of concern as the nation prepares to hold an election in the midst of a devastating pandemic. To avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail, I am suspending these initiatives until after the election is concluded.”

Notably, DeJoy’s statement does not provide any language that suggests the already-enacted service-slashing and machine removals will be reversed.

“Within this statement, there is zero commitment to restore services that were already removed,” noted New York City Council candidate Jordana Lusk. “Elected officials shouldn’t be thanking him for this.”

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson was also skeptical about DeJoy’s proposed cessation of those organizational structure reforms–saying the states’ lawsuit would go forward regardless of the face-saving attempt.

“For partisan gain, President Trump is attempting to destroy a critical institution that is essential for millions of Americans,” Ferguson said. “We rely on the Postal Service for our Social Security benefits, prescriptions — and exercising our right to vote. Our coalition will fight to protect the Postal Service and uphold the rule of law in federal court.”

[image via Scott Olson/Getty Images]

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