Speaker Nancy Pelosi branded Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress "enemies of the state" for antagonising — and, in the Democrats' view, actively sabotaging — the US Postal Service ahead of sweeping mail-in voting initiatives for the 2020 elections.
“We take an oath to protect and defend the Constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic. And sadly, the domestic enemies to our voting system and honouring our Constitution are right at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue with their allies in the Congress of the United States,” Ms Pelosi said in an interview with MSNBC, when asked to explain why just 45 per cent of respondents to a recent poll said they are confident in the integrity of the upcoming election results.
"They're doing everything they can [to] suppress the vote with [their] actions: scare people, intimidate by saying law enforcement will be there, diminish the role of the postal system in all of this. It's really, actually shameful. Enemies of the state," Ms Pelosi said.
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a longtime ally of Mr Trump, faced hours of an intense grilling by Democratic lawmakers on Monday who sought answers on why the USPS underwent operational changes in recent weeks that have led to significant delays in delivery.
Individual post offices have removed blue collection boxes from various locations as well as mail processing machines, operational changes Mr DeJoy has said predate his leadership of the USPS. But the embattled postmaster general, who took over the agency in June, has cut back hours and overtime pay that postal workers say has become essential to delivering backlogs of mail on time.
Democrats in Washington have suggested Mr DeJoy, a former Republican National Committee deputy finance chairman and Trump campaign backer, was installed to undermine the initiatives of several states to expand mail-in voting this fall to prevent undue Covid-19 exposure at in-person ballot boxes.
Mr DeJoy has panned such suggestions as a "false narrative" propagated by Democrats and the media. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, the second-most powerful Republican in the chamber, has dismissed it as a Democratic "conspiracy theory" and "fabricated crisis."
But the president has openly admitted that he is hesitant to provide more funding to the USPS because he fears mail-in voting will be rife with voter fraud, a claim that has very little evidence backing it up.
Americans all across the country have reported widespread delays in the delivery of their mail in recent weeks, something Mr DeJoy said he was trying to address.
“Transitions don’t always go smoothly,” he said before the Oversight panel on Monday.
“We are very concerned with the deterioration in service,” he said, but “we’re seeing a big recovery this week.”
Ms Pelosi said on Monday that voters who are concerned about the integrity of the 2020 election results ought not to pay attention to Mr Trump's statements because they are only meant to "intimidate" voters.
"One thing I will say to the American people: Do not pay attention to Donald Trump. It is his goal to scare people from voting, to intimidate them by saying he's going to have law enforcement people at the polls. To welcome, in fact, Russian intervention, letting [Russian President Vladimir] Putin decide who will be President instead of the American people," Ms Pelosi said.
"But ignore him, because his purpose is to diminish the vote, to suppress the vote. And shame on the Republicans for enabling that to happen," she said.
On Saturday, the Democratic-controlled House passed a bill that would send $25bn to the USPS ahead of the election and prevent Mr DeJoy from instituting operational rollbacks.
Roughly two dozen Republicans voted with the Democratic majority in favour of the bill.
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