USPS Watchdog Probing Changes At Postal Service, Postmaster’s Ethics

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - AUGUST 05: A United States Postal Service (USPS) mailbox stands on August 05, 2020 in New York City. The USPS, the nation’s national mail carrier service, is under increased scrutiny from polit... NEW YORK, NEW YORK - AUGUST 05: A United States Postal Service (USPS) mailbox stands on August 05, 2020 in New York City. The USPS, the nation’s national mail carrier service, is under increased scrutiny from politicians who are warning that the agency is not prepared to handle the tens of millions of mail-in ballots which are expected to be sent for the November election. President Trump in recent weeks has called the Postal Service “a joke” as the agency is experiences delays in mail delivery due to the coronavirus pandemic and financial pressures. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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August 14, 2020 5:34 p.m.

The United States Postal Service’s internal investigator will review controversial new policy changes at USPS, as well as whether the GOP donor-turned-Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has complied with ethics rules. 

CNN first reported the investigation Friday as alarm bells rang across the country over whether USPS would be able to handle the influx of mailed ballots this November. 

“We have initiated a body of work to address the concerns raised, but cannot comment on the details,” a spokesperson for the USPS inspector general’s office told CNN.

The probe comes after several Democratic legislators last week asked for an investigation into recent changes at USPS. Among other things, new USPS practices limiting overtime and extra mail processing trips have slowed mail delivery and imperil the 2020 election, Democrats say. 

DeJoy’s financial ties have been another cause for concern: The Republican fundraiser still holds an eight-figure stake in his former company — a USPS competitor, XPO logistics, CNN previously reported. In June, after starting as postmaster general, DeJoy purchased stock options in Amazon, CNN noted.

News of the inspector general’s probe capped a chaotic week for the Postal Service: Pennsylvania officials said in a court filing Thursday that the agency had warned them it may not be able to deliver ballots by Election Day, resulting in voter disenfranchisement. On Friday, the Washington Post reported that the USPS had sent similar warnings to 45 other states and the District of Columbia.

In Montana, Sen. John Tester (D-MT) demanded answers from DeJoy regarding mail drop boxes being removed around the state, after NBC Montana reported on the removal of several dozen drop boxes in Missoula, Bozeman, Lewistown and Billings.

Pictures showing drop boxes loaded onto trucks in Oregon and New York caused alarm, though spokespeople for USPS have explained away the moves as resulting from either standard maintenance, or evaluations of low-traffic areas.

“USPS maintenance remains on a regular schedule,” a USPS spokesperson in New York told TPM after a New York Times reporter snapped a photo of Manhattan drop boxes on the back of a USPS truck. 

Nationwide, according to a complaint from the USPS workers’ union, USPS has removed mail sorting machines in a move that union officials say could drastically cut back on postal workers’ capacity to sort through election mail. 

Then there’s the President, who this week directly tied $25 billion in proposed funding for USPS — which he said he opposed — to the agency’s ability to effectively deliver election mail.

“They don’t have the money to do the universal mail-in voting,” the President said at a White House press conference Wednesday. “Therefore, they can’t do it, I guess. Right?”

Postal workers have taken note.

“For years, every time there’s an election, we spend an enormous amount of time searching through [mail containers] to make sure that we get every ballot,” a mail clerk in Michigan told Mother Jones. “[I]t doesn’t appear that this year that they were real worried about that.”

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