"We will not let Trump destroy the Post Office to sabotage this election. This is a democracy, not a dictatorship."
So declared Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Twitter Saturday as he released a video documenting the president's own statements and recent changes imposed by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to make the case that President Donald Trump is "trying to destroy the Postal Service."
We will not let Trump destroy the Post Office to sabotage this election. This is a democracy, not a dictatorship. pic.twitter.com/p4v8IhZ1xV— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) August 15, 2020
Sanders's new video came after the U.S. Postal Service announced it was halting the removal of mailboxes in several states—actions that prompted outrage and further fueled voting rights advocates' accusations that Trump is sabotaging the service in the lead-up to the November elections.
I’m going to continue holding Postmaster DeJoy accountable until he reinstates the reportedly dozens of @USPS mail collection boxes that were removed across Montana.— Senator Jon Tester (@SenatorTester) August 14, 2020
NBC Montana reported Friday morning that the Postal Service had 68 mail collection boxes slated for removal across the state, which a USPS spokesperson dismissed as reflecting "normal operational procedure" based on mail volume.
Mailbox removals were reported in multiple other states as well.
A USPS spokesperson told CNN Friday night that the collection of boxes would be on hold in Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Idaho, Montana, South Dakota, North Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Iowa, Alaska, Nebraska, and parts of Wisconsin and Missouri. CNN noted that it's unclear "if the removal freeze would go into effect across the nation." From the outlet:
Officials say that in the last week the USPS has removed letter collection boxes in at least four states: New York, Oregon, Montana, and Indiana. The USPS has also begun notifying postal workers in at least three states—West Virginia, Florida and Missouri—that they will start to reduce their retail operating hours, according to union officials.
The collections drew swift rebuke from progressives on social media and even a jab from satirical news site The Onion with a headline "Trump Online Store Begins Selling Decommissioned USPS Mailboxes So Fans Can Own Piece of History." The farcical ad says that the boxes "may contain up to 10,000 mail-in ballots."
If another government, especially in South America, was removing mailboxes in advance of an election the United States would have launched a coup attempt yesterday.— jordan (@JordanUhl) August 14, 2020
Photo taken in Wisconsin. This is happening right before our eyes. They are sabotaging USPS to sabotage vote by mail. This is massive voter suppression and part of their plan to steal the election. pic.twitter.com/QXLWGIHTrz— Thomas Kennedy (@tomaskenn) August 15, 2020
Democrat Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, where dozens of mailboxes were removed this week, voiced concern.
In a Friday tweet, Wyden wrote that the president—who essentially admitted this week he's blocking funding of USPS to thwart an expansion of mail-in ballots, and whose "handpicked" and campaign donor postmaster general has imposed sweeping policy changes at USPS being blamed for delivery delays—has a clear motive.
"Donald Trump isn't *trying* to sabotage our elections. He's doing it right under our noses. This is voter suppression and Senate Republicans are letting him get away with it," Wyden tweeted.
News also emerged Friday that the inspector general at the Postal Service is beginning a review of the DeJoy-imposed changes.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who joined other top Democrats in requesting the IG probe, responded to the development tweeting, "I'll keep using every in the toolbox to stop Trump and DeJoy from sabotaging the USPS."
Adding to concerns about the security of voting during the pandemic is a recent warning from USPS to states nationwide that mail-in ballots might not arrive in time to be counted—a prospect that, as the Associated Press reported, raises "the possibility that millions of voters could be disenfranchised." From the AP on Saturday:
The Post Office released letters it sent to all 50 states and the District Columbia on its website. While some states with permissive vote-by- mail laws were given a less stringent warning, the majority with more restrictive requirements that limit when a ballot must be cast were given a more dire warning.
The laws, the letter said, create a "risk that ballots requested near the deadline under state law will not be returned by mail in time to be counted."
According to advocacy group Common Cause, the chaos makes it clear that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell needs to bring the Senate back into session to vote on House-passed legislation to beef up the Postal Service with $25 billion in funding.
"With each new revelation, it appears Trump's manipulation of the Postal Service is strategic and coordinated," said Common Cause president Karen Hobert Flynn, calling it "a systematic attack on our most sacred right as free people, our vote."
Hobert Flyn added that the impacts of the attack are far-reaching, noting the reliance of "seniors receiving Social Security checks, medicines, food, or care packages from distant family during Covid-19" as examples of "people harmed right now by these actions."
Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), the chair of the House Subcommittee on Government Operations who on Thursday called for the IG to "expedite a rapid review of the statutory and regulatory compliance of Mr. DeJoy's recent actions," says it's clear it DeJoy has to go.
"Postmaster General DeJoy's brief term has already become one of the darkest in USPS history. On the eve of a presidential election, in the midst of the worst public health pandemic in 100 years, Mr. DeJoy has pledged his allegiance to the political expedience of President Trump at the expense of protecting our democracy and access to the ballot," Connolly said in a Friday statement.
DeJoy "has deliberately enacted policies to sabotage the Postal Service to serve only one person, President Trump. He has failed the American people. Mr. DeJoy must resign," said Connolly.