Deputy Postmaster General Ronald Stroman has reportedly been forced out of his position, throwing the leadership of the U.S. Postal Service into further chaos as the agency faces a potentially catastrophic financial crisis and efforts by Trump administration officials to impose draconian changes on the nation's most popular government institution.
"Stroman was specifically key on elections and vote by mail—this is not a good sign."
—Jessica Huseman, ProPublica
Reports of Stroman's ouster came less than a week after the USPS Board of Governors announced its selection of Louis DeJoy—a leading donor to the Republican Party and President Donald Trump—to serve as postmaster general as the agency continues to navigate the Covid-19 crisis, which has resulted in a precipitous decline in mail volume. Current USPS chief Megan Brennan, who is retiring effective June 15, has warned Congress that the agency could face financial ruin by the end of September without a rapid infusion of emergency funds.
DeJoy will choose the next deputy postmaster general.
"We are sounding an alarm regarding the departure of Ronald Stroman from the Postal Service," Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said in an emailed statement. "The Postal Service lies at the heart of democracy and is critical to the success of an unprecedented vote by mail system that is needed for an effective 2020 election season."
"The Postal Service is also a lifeline for vulnerable people who are counting on mail delivery for medication, stimulus payments,and more," said Clarke. "Stroman's untimely departure signals deepening chaos and disruption inside the Postal Service at a critical moment during the 2020 election season."
The PO's point man on elections and mail-in voting, in case your anxiety levels weren't off the charts already. https://t.co/m2br9fzpep
— Ty Burr (@tyburr) May 12, 2020
Days before the USPS Board of Governors publicly announced its decision to appoint DeJoy, news broke that David Williams, the vice chair of the board, resigned effective April 30. Dayen, who has been reporting on the Postal Service for years, wrote last week that Williams' resignation is "distressing" because "nobody is more knowledgeable about the inner workings of the Postal Service than David Williams."
"He was the longtime Inspector General who wrote the famous (to me, anyway) white paper in 2014 arguing for the return of postal banking," Dayen wrote. "Worst of all, my sources indicate that this was a resignation in protest."
Williams was reportedly upset at the Trump Treasury Department's efforts to use a congressionally approved $10 billion loan to force significant changes to USPS operations. According to the Washington Post, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin "could use the loan as leverage to give the administration influence over how much the agency charges for delivering packages and how it manages its finances."
"In recent days, the Postal Service's board has appeared open to some of the Trump administration's terms," the Post reported last week.
The 200,000-member American Postal Workers Union accused the Trump administration of exploiting the coronavirus crisis to privatize the agency.
Recent behind-the-scenes machinations at the Postal Service could have immense real-world consequences as the U.S. barrels toward the November elections without a nationwide, universal system in place for mail-in voting, which advocates say is necessary to safely conduct elections amid the coronavirus pandemic.
With Stroman and Williams gone, the USPS Board of Governors, which sets policy for the agency, is now almost completely controlled by Trump appointees. Stroman's departure leaves the board with five members, short of the quorum required to conduct business.
"Stroman was specifically key on elections and vote by mail—this is not a good sign," tweeted ProPublica's Jessica Huseman in response to reports of Stroman's resignation.
Stephen Wolf of Daily Kos Elections echoed Huseman's warning, calling turmoil at the Postal Service "an existential threat to voting safely by mail in November."
"Trump is intent on installing his partisan lackeys in control of the Postal Service," said Wolf, "while congressional Republicans try to force it into insolvency so they can privatize it."
This story has been updated with comment from the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.