President Donald Trump said he backs actions being taken by his postmaster general, and that money will not be designated for universal voting by mail, as a nationwide uproar continues around cuts to the U.S. Postal Service.
During a news conference on Saturday at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club, Trump said repeatedly that absentee voting was good while vote-by-mail was “very bad” and subject to fraud.
“Universal mail-in voting is going to be catastrophic, it’s going to make our country a laughing stock all over the world,” Trump said, adding without evidence that it could take “months” to know the result of November’s elections.
Many experts say voting by mail and voting by absentee ballot are essentially indistinguishable.
He blamed Democrats for not approving “proper funding,” although Democrats have demanded large amounts of funding for the Postal Service, including to helping ensure the vote in November.
Asked about reports that postal sorting machines are being removed in various locations, and how this squares with his contention that he wants the mail to be processed efficiently, Trump said he doesn’t know what Postmaster General Louis DeJoy is doing.
“Well, you’ll have to ask him,” Trump said. “I know this: he’s a very efficient operator, a very good operator.”
Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and former President Barack Obama, have slammed Trump and DeJoy for engineering the mail slowdowns. Obama said Friday that Trump is trying to “actively kneecap” the USPS.
Even singer Taylor Swift jumped on the bandwagon, telling her 87 million Twitter followers -- many of whom are young U.S. voters -- on Saturday that Trump is doing a “calculated dismantling” of the postal service.
Trump on the one hand endorsed DeJoy - calling the wealthy Republican donor a "very talented man" who was working hard to "stop the tremendous losses that have taken place for many, many years."
"He wants to make the Post Office great again," Trump said, playing off his 2016 campaign slogan.
On the other hand, Trump tried to put some distance between himself and escalating problems with the U.S. mail agency that have erupted since DeJoy took over.
"I don't know what he's doing," he said at one point when asked about DeJoy's cuts, which have sparked widespread delivery delays and spread disquiet across the country.
"I didn't speak to him about it," he said at another.
DeJoy's downsizing drive - which has included curbs on overtime and removal of post boxes - has become a major concern for Democrats who accuse Trump of asphyxiating the Post Office to disrupt the Nov. 3 election, which is expected to feature an unprecedented wave of postal voting due to the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. Even some Republicans have expressed worry amid reports that medical deliveries were being slowed.
On Friday, the Postal Service's inspector general said it would be investigating his cuts - along with potential conflicts of interest related to DeJoy's ownership of millions of dollars in stock in Postal Service rivals and customers, according to a financial disclosure form filed by his wife.
Early on Saturday, protesters gathered outside DeJoy's upscale condominium in Washington to chant, bang pots and wave placards that denounced him as "Postmaster Saboteur."
One sign read, "Deliver DeMail, Depose DeJoy."
Pressed during his news conference on why the Post Office was being starved of funds, Trump said Democrats were blocking a cash infusion during stalled negotiations over a new round of economic aid to ease the impact of the pandemic. In fact, Democrats have been pushing to hand extra money to the Post Office so it can handle the anticipated election-related influx.
Material from Reuters news service was also used in this story.
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