5 takeaways from postmaster general's grilling on mail-in voting

Louis DeJoy insists the Postal Service can handle all election mail.

August 24, 2020, 4:24 PM

In a combative hearing Monday that frequently veered into partisan bickering, embattled Postmaster General Louis DeJoy continued to defend his handling of the postal agency despite evidence of service delays under his watch and concerns about mail-in voting.

Monday’s testimony was congressional Democrats’ second opportunity to pin down the agency leader who, after 70 days at the helm, has drawn scrutiny for enacting operational changes that critics say could threaten record-setting absentee voting anticipated in the November election.

Democrats sought to assign blame for the drop in delivery standards on DeJoy, a former logistics executive who donated large sums of money to Republican political operations. DeJoy seemed to revel in the confrontation, at times engaging lawmakers in debate, and again denied claims he is sabotaging the election.

Here are five key takeaways:

DeJoy has 'put word around' that Trump's attacks on Postal Service 'not helpful'

With the exception of one instance in which DeJoy acknowledged having a “good relationship” with President Donald Trump, the postmaster general has largely dodged questions about his ties to the man in the Oval Office.

PHOTO: Postmaster General Louis DeJoy is sworn in to testify during a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on slowdowns at the Postal Service ahead of the November elections on Capitol Hill in Washington,D.C. on Aug. 24, 2020.
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy is sworn in to testify during a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on slowdowns at the Postal Service ahead of the November elections on Capitol Hill in Washington,D.C. on Aug. 24, 2020.
Tom Brenner/AFP via Getty Images

That changed on Monday, when DeJoy announced that he has “put word around” to people associated with the Trump campaign that the president’s complaints about the Postal Service “are not helpful.”

Trump has called the Postal Service “a joke” seeking to frame the popular agency as an example of poorly run bureaucratic bloat and question its ability to deliver on vote-by-mail in the coming presidential election. For his part, DeJoy said Monday that the Postal Service is not a joke.

After telling Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., that he has “had no contact with the Trump campaign” about the Postal Service, DeJoy backtracked to clarify that he has discussed his new role with “friends … that are associated with the campaign.”

“Did you not tell the Board of Governors this month, in August, that in fact you had had contact with the Trump campaign to ask them to stop their attacks on the postal service and voting by mail?” Connolly asked.

“I have put word around that this is not helpful,” DeJoy said.

“So you did have contact with the Trump campaign, for a good purpose?” Connolly followed up.

“I’m trying to think,” DeJoy said. “When you say the Trump campaign, I have not spoken to Trump campaign leadership in that regard. I’ve spoken to people that are friends of mine that are associated with the campaign, yes.”

New evidence of mail service delays – and a subpoena threat

Before questioning began Monday, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., who chairs the House Oversight and Reform Committee, shared internal Postal Service documents that showed significant dips in delivery service since DeJoy initiated a sweeping overhaul of the agency’s operations.

The figures show that service standards for First Class Mail, Marketing Mail, Periodicals, and Priority Mail suffered significant hits beginning in early July, two weeks after DeJoy took the helm.

DeJoy acknowledged the “dip” in service levels on Friday before the Senate, and added Monday that the agency is already “seeing a nice recovery” in mail delivery times.

But Maloney also took issue with the means by which her committee came into possession of the documents. She accused DeJoy of “withholding information from [the committee], concealing documents and downplaying the damage that you’re causing.”

“If you continue to withhold information or otherwise fail to comply, you can expect a subpoena,” she said.

PHOTO: Carolyn Maloney arrives before a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on slowdowns at the Postal Service ahead of the November elections on Capitol Hill in Washington,D.C. on Aug. 24, 2020.
Chairwoman of the House Government Oversight and Reform Committee Carolyn Maloney arrives before a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on slowdowns at the Postal Service ahead of the November elections on Capitol Hill in Washington,D.C. on Aug. 24, 2020.
Tom Brenner/AFP via Getty Images

DeJoy doubles down on mail-sorting machines, then wavers

A defiant DeJoy rebuffed several Democrats seeking clarification on his decision not to restore mail sorting machines, doubling down on his position that the machines are “not necessary” to improve service.

After a lengthy diatribe, Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., concluded his time by asking: “What the heck are you doing?”

After a heated back-and-forth, Lynch asked, “Will you put the high-speed [mail sorting] machines back?”

“No I will not,” DeJoy shot back.

But later on, he wavered.

“Regardless of whether it’s efficient or not, what is the harm in just putting those machines back until election day just for the peace of mind – for the confidence of the American people?” asked Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif.

DeJoy reiterated his position that “we don’t need the machines.”

The two sparred over the merits of Khanna’s case, with DeJoy telling him, “In Washington, it makes plenty of sense. To me, it makes none.”

Eventually, however, DeJoy folded – with a laugh: “Get me the billion [dollars] and I’ll put the [mail-sorting] machines in.”

PHOTO: Postmaster General Louis DeJoy is seated to testify during a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on slowdowns at the Postal Service ahead of the November elections on Capitol Hill, Aug. 24, 2020.
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy is seated to testify as a nameplate for Dejoy and that of fellow witness USPS Board of Governors President Robert Duncan are placed atop the witness table during a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on slowdowns at the Postal Service ahead of the November elections on Capitol Hill, Aug. 24, 2020.
Tom Brenner/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Democrats home in on DeJoy’s selection as postmaster general

Democrats engaged in pointed questions about DeJoy’s selection as postmaster general – a subject that has emerged as a focus of theirs in recent weeks.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, for example, has asked for materials related to DeJoy’s hiring from the Board of Governors after learning of “several, previously undisclosed communications between Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and the Board of Governors regarding the search process.”

DeJoy responded Monday, denying that “Steven Mnuchin had nothing to do with my selection, okay?”

“Did you talk to Secretary Mnuchin about taking the job? There was a report that you two had lunch together to discuss it,” asked Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md.

“It is totally inaccurate and outrageous,” DeJoy fired back.

DeJoy also addressed allegations leveled last week by David Williams, the former vice chair of the Board of Governors, who told lawmakers last week that he resigned “when it became clear to me that the administration was politicizing the Postal Service with the Treasury Secretary as the lead figure for the White House in that effort.”

On Monday, DeJoy said, “I don’t know what Mr. Williams’ contention is, or what his problem is with me.”

DeJoy repeatedly accuses Democrats of asking ‘outrageous’ questions

On multiple occasions, DeJoy called Democrats’ confrontational lines of inquiry “outrageous” and refused to answer questions he deemed “not worthy of response.”

His frequent use of these defense mechanisms demonstrated the combative nature of the hearing, which ran nearly eight hours.

In a testy moment of testimony, DeJoy faced questions about his political donations to Republican causes, deflecting allegations of a potential conflict-of-interest as an “outrageous claim.”

“I’m not going to answer these types of questions,” DeJoy said. “I’m here to represent the postal service.”

Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., asked whether DeJoy’s “backup plan [is] to be pardoned like Roger Stone.”

DeJoy laughed it off: “I have no comment on that. It’s not worth a comment.”

DeJoy also labeled questions about his selection as postmaster general and his decision not to re-engage mail sorting machines as “outrageous.”

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