House Subpoenas Embattled Postal Service Leader Over Delays

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — The House Oversight Committee on Wednesday subpoenaed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy for records about the widespread mail delivery delays that have pulled the Postal Service into the political spotlight as it prepares to handle an onslaught of ballots in the November election.

The subpoena, which seeks documents related to operational changes that have slowed mail and the agency’s plans for the presidential election, comes after committee chair Rep. Carolyn Maloney said DeJoy has not sufficiently answered the panel’s requests for more information.

“It is clear that a subpoena has become necessary to further the Committee’s investigation and help inform potential legislative actions,” Maloney, D-N.Y., said this week.

DeJoy, a major donor to Republicans and President Donald Trump, took over the agency in June after a career in logistics and set in motion a set of policy changes that have delayed mail and sparked concern over the agency’s ability to process mail-in ballots this fall.

He has appeared before Congress twice in recent weeks to testify about the removal of the agency’s blue collection boxes and mail sorting machines, as well as changes to trucking operations and overtime hours that postal workers say are resulting in delays. Amid a public outcry, DeJoy said he halted some of the changes until after election.

Democrats have been pushing for increased oversight of the Postal Service following DeJoy’s operational changes and Trump’s baseless claims that mail-in voting will lead to widespread fraud. The president has also admitted that he was withholding emergency money from the agency in order to make it more difficult for the service to process what is expected to be a record number of mail-in ballots due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The committee is also asking for information about how DeJoy, whose appointment broke a long line of postmaster generals with previous experience at the agency, was picked for the job, as well as any communications between DeJoy and the Trump campaign. It is also requesting DeJoy’s unredacted calendar along with records on potential communications with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.

In a letter Friday to the committee, DeJoy said postal leadership has expanded a task force on election mail with local officials and said his staff was working to provide the requested materials. He has said election mail is his “No. 1 priority,” and that he will authorize expanded use of overtime, extra truck trips and other measures in the weeks before the election to ensure on-time delivery of ballots.

A spokesman for the Postal Service said the agency will comply with its legal obligations.

“We remain surprised and confused by Chairwoman Maloney’s insistence on issuing a subpoena to the Postal Service in the midst of ongoing dialogue with her staff on the House Committee on Oversight and Reform to produce information in an orderly fashion. We fully intend to comply with our obligations under the law,” the statement read.

The subpoena placed a noon Sept. 16 deadline for DeJoy to provide the records.

Separately, an audit from the inspector general of the Postal Service found that more than a million mail-in ballots were sent to voters late during the primary elections. The watchdog urged greater cooperation between states and the agency ahead of the November election.

The report found state election boards sent more than a million ballots within a week of their primaries, creating a “high risk” that they couldn’t be filled out and returned in time to be counted. In thousands of cases across the country, ballots were sent out after states’ mailing deadlines or on election day.

The inspector general also identified a handful of “concerns” surrounding election mail, including ballots sent without bar-coded tracking technology, mail-in ballot designs that make processing difficult, postmark requirements and out-of-date voter addresses.

“Resolving these issues will require higher level partnerships and cooperation between the Postal Service and various state officials, including secretaries of state and state election boards,” the auditors wrote. “Timely delivery of election and political mail is necessary to ensure the integrity of the U.S. election process.”

The report found election officials in Kentucky and New York sent more than 600,000 mail-in ballots late during their primaries. In Pennsylvania, 500 ballots were mailed after election day. Seventeen states sent more than a half-million ballots after mailing deadlines, and 44,000 ballots were mailed on or a day before election day in 11 states. Also, an analysis of political and election mail in seven Postal Service processing centers between April and June identified around 1.6 million mailpieces that were not delivered on time.

The report did not evaluate controversial operational changes implemented by DeJoy. The inspector general’s office has opened a separate inquiry into those changes.

DeJoy has recommended that voters request absentee ballots at least 15 days before the election and then return them within seven days from election day.

“To be clear, these recommendations are designed to help ensure that ballots will be delivered and counted, and should in no way be misconstrued to imply that we lack confidence in our ability to deliver those ballots. We can, and will, handle the volume of election mail we receive,” DeJoy told the House Oversight committee last week.

The Associated Press produced this coverage with support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

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Postal Chief Louis DeJoy Returns To Congress Facing Uproar Over Delays

WASHINGTON (AP) — Facing a backlash over operational changes that have resulted in mail delays, the nation’s new postmaster general is returning to Congress to testify before a House panel that has sharply criticized him.

The hearing Monday comes after the House approved legislation Saturday to reverse the changes in U.S. Postal Services operations and send $25 billion to shore up the agency ahead of the November election, when a surge in mail-in ballots is expected.

Louis DeJoy testified Friday in the Senate that his “No. 1 priority” is to ensure election mail arrives on time.

Still, the postmaster general, a political ally of President Donald Trump, said he would not restore the cuts to mailboxes and sorting equipment that have already been made. He could not provide senators with a plan for handling the ballot crush for the election.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., the chair of the Oversight Committee and author of the House bill, said DeJoy was using the Postal Service’s longstanding fiscal problems as an excuse “to justify sweeping and damaging changes to Postal Service operations. And we have all seen the results: national headlines about delays of days and weeks, veterans desperately waiting for their medications, sorting machines being ripped out and thrown in dumpsters.”

Maloney’s committee on Saturday released internal Postal Service documents warning about steep declines and delays in a range of mail services since early July, shortly after DeJoy took the helm. Delays have occurred in first-class and marketing mail, periodicals and Priority Mail, the agency says in an Aug. 12 briefing prepared by Postal Service staff for DeJoy.

“These new documents show that the delays we have all heard about are actually far worse than previously reported — and they are across the board,″ Maloney said.

DeJoy acknowledged at the Senate hearing there has been a “dip” in service, but disputed reports of widespread problems.

In a statement Sunday, the Postal Service said it greatly appreciates House efforts to assist the agency, but remains concerned that some of the bill’s requirements, “while well meaning, will constrain the ability of the Postal Service to make operational changes that will improve efficiency, reduce costs and ultimately improve service to the American people.″

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recalled lawmakers to Washington for a rare Saturday session over objections from Republicans, who dismissed it as a stunt. Trump urged a no vote, railing on Twitter against mail-in ballots expected to surge in the COVID-19 crisis. He has said he wants to block extra funds to the Postal Service.

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows dismissed the bill as “going nowhere,” while Pelosi urged the GOP-controlled Senate to act quickly. “The public is demanding action on this now,” Pelosi said Sunday. “I can’t see how the Senate can avoid it unless they do so to their peril.”

Meadows called the House bill a “political statement,” stressing that Trump would consider additional money only as part of a broader coronavirus relief package.

“That bill was not a serious bill,” Meadows said. “And my conversations with a lot of the Democrats on Capitol Hill … is, if you want to be serious about it, this president is willing to put forth money and reforms.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., complained that the Democrats’ legislation would not make the Postal Service fiscally sustainable, nor would it make other reforms to the agency’s bylaws, such as removing a costly requirement that the Postal Service prepay decades of retirees’ health benefits. “Their plan isn’t about ballots, it’s about bailouts,″ McCarthy said of Democrats.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has been eyeing a $10 billion postal rescue as part of the next COVID-19 relief package. “Senate Republicans are committed to making sure the Postal Service remains well equipped to fulfill its important duties. But the president has already made it clear he will not sign the speaker’s partisan stunt into law,″ McConnell said after passage of the House bill.

“The Senate will absolutely not pass stand-alone legislation for the Postal Service while American families continue to go without more relief″ from the coronavirus crisis, McConnell said.

Pelosi called White House proposals to deal with the pandemic “bare leaves,” saying they don’t address children facing food insecurity, people grappling with evictions, coronavirus testing and treatment or money for state and local governments.

Still, there were signs of bipartisan support for the Postal Service, one of the most popular government agencies with an approval rating above 90%.

Twenty-six House Republicans broke with Trump and GOP leaders to back the House bill, which passed 257-150.

A bill co-sponsored by Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., would provide the Postal Service with up to $25 billion to cover revenue losses or operational expenses resulting from COVID-19. The bill has at least 22 co-sponsors, including no fewer than nine Republicans. Three of the co-sponsors — Collins, Montana’s Steve Daines and Colorado’s Cory Gardner — are among the GOP’s most vulnerable incumbents in the fall election.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York said Sunday he had secured agreement with a new election committee created by the Postal Service’s Board of Governors to issue a report in two weeks on the service’s plans to address an expected surge of mail-in ballots. Under the agreement with the committee’s Democratic chairman, Lee Moak, the committee would also provide weekly briefings for top Senate Democrats.

The six-member Board of Governors, all of whom are Trump appointees, announced the bipartisan committee Friday to oversee mail voting. “Congress will use that report to ensure that the Postal Service has every resource it needs to protect and deliver election mail and hold DeJoy and the board accountable,” Schumer said.

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Postmaster General Louis DeJoy To Testify In Senate On Mail

WASHINGTON (AP) — Facing public backlash, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy is set to testify Friday about disruptions in mail delivery as a Senate committee digs into changes in postal operations being made just as millions of Americans will be relying on mail-in ballots for the November election.

President Donald Trump praises the new head of the Postal Service, a Republican donor and ally. But Democrats warn DeJoy’s cost-cutting initiatives since arriving in June are causing an upheaval that threatens the election. Trump raised the stakes by saying he wants to block agency funds to make it harder for the Postal Service to handle the expected surge of mail-in ballots during the COVID-19 crisis.

Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, the chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, will gavel open the session dismissing the “false political narrative” that DeJoy is trying to “sabotage” the election.

“It is Postmaster DeJoy’s commendable attempt to reduce those excess costs that are now being cynically used to create this false political narrative,” the Wisconsin senator will say, according to prepared remarks.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, whose role in postal operations is being questioned by Senate Democrats, said in a letter to Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer that he had no hand in “recruiting or suggesting” DeJoy for the job.

“In fact, I was surprised to learn that Mr. DeJoy was a candidate for the position,” Mnuchin wrote in a letter late Thursday to Schumer.

The morning hearing will be held remotely as Congress is on recess and lawmakers have been conducting much of their business during the coronavirus outbreak in virtual settings.

It’s unclear if Sen. Kamala Harris of California, the Democratic vice presidential nominee, will be among those beaming into the session as the week-long Democratic National Convention comes to a close.

The outcry over mail delays and warnings of political interference have put the Postal Service at the center of the nation’s tumultuous election year, with Americans rallying around one of the nation’s oldest and more popular institutions.

With mounting pressure, DeJoy abruptly reversed course this week, vowing to postpone any further changes until after the election, saying he wanted to avoid even the “perception” of any interference. Blue mailboxes were being been removed, back-of-shop sorting equipment shutdown and overtime hours kept in check.

But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said DeJoy told her in a subsequent phone call he had no intention of restoring the equipment.

An internal directive to postal staff said, “They are not to reconnect/reinstall machines,” according to an email obtained by The Associated Press.

House Democrats are pushing ahead with a rare Saturday session to pass legislation that would prohibit the actions and send $25 billion to shore up postal operations. Some 20 states, along with voting rights advocates, have sued to reverse the changes.

During an interview Thursday on Washington Post Live, Pelosi said Republicans “have been after the post office for a while” as they try to run it more like a profitable business.

“A business? No it’s a service,” Pelosi said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is eyeing a $10 billion postal rescue as part of the next COVID-19 relief package.

“The Post Office is not in trouble,” the GOP leader said Thursday during a home-state stop in Paducha, Ky. “We’re going to make sure that they are able to deliver our ballots on time.”

The White House has said it would be open to more postal funding as part of a broader virus aid package.

The Postal Service is struggling financially under a decline in mail volume, rising costs from the coronavirus pandemic and a rare, and some say cumbersome congressional requirement to fund in advance its retiree health care benefits.

For many, the Postal Service provides a lifeline, sending not just cards and letters, but prescription drug delivery, financial statements and other items that are especially needed by mail during the pandemic.

The choice of DeJoy to lead the service, the first postmaster general in nearly two decades who is not a career postal employee, is coming under increased scrutiny.

The postal service board of governors, appointed by Trump, selected DeJoy in May to take the job. A GOP donor, he previously owned a logistics business that was a longtime Postal Service contractor. He maintains significant financial stakes in companies that do business or compete with the agency, raising conflict of interest questions.

In a statement, the Postal Service said DeJoy has made all required financial disclosures but that he might have to divest some holdings if conflicts arise.

Schumer said this week he has asked for an accounting of how DeJoy was selected, but was previously told by the board of governors some information remains confidential. Schumer had said Mnuchin played a role in the process.

David C. Williams, the former vice chairman of the U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors, on Thursday told lawmakers that he resigned from the board, in part, over DeJoy’s selection, and because he believed the White House was taking extraordinary steps to turn the independent agency into a “political tool.”

He said, “I was convinced that its independent role had been marginalized.”

Williams, who resigned in April, told members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus at an online forum that DeJoy “didn’t strike me as a serious candidate.”

Associated Press writer Bruce Schreiner in Frankfort, Ky., contributed to this report.

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3 Texas Cops Shot After Responding To Call At Home

CEDAR PARK, Texas (AP) — Three police officers were shot Sunday and a person remained barricaded inside a home located in a suburb of Austin, Texas, authorities said.

The Cedar Park Police Department said on Twitter that officers were responding to a call at a home off Natalie Cove when three were shot. They said one person was barricaded inside the home.

The officers were in stable condition at a local hospital, Interim Police Chief Mike Harmon said on Twitter. The scene in Heritage Park Subdivision was still active, he said.

The city of Cedar Park has asked residents to avoid Bagdad Road between Osage Drive and New Hope Drive, the city said on Twitter. The Cedar Park police and fire departments have closed the southbound lane of Bagdad Road at Heritage, the post said.

“Our hearts are with the police officers who were injured while protecting the Cedar Park community this afternoon. We must never take for granted the service and sacrifice of our law enforcement officers, and the State of Texas stands ready to provide the support and resources needed to bring justice to those involved,” Republican Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement.

A spokesperson for the police department did not immediately respond to messages for comment.

Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

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Lebanon Marks One Week Since Deadly Beirut Explosion

BEIRUT (AP) — A nation still burying its dead Tuesday marked a week since the explosion in Beirut that flattened much of the Lebanese capital’s port, damaged buildings and left thousands of people dead and injured.

Several events, including a moment of silence at 6:08 p.m. local time when the blast happened, were planned to commemorate the explosion. It was caused by the ignition of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate that had been sitting at Beirut port for more than six years. A candlelight vigil was also planned for later Monday.

Workers remove debris from the site of last week’s explosion that hit the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon, Monday, Aug. 10, 2020. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

The explosion has fueled popular outrage against the country’s top political leaders and security agencies, and led to the resignation of the government on Monday. In the wake of the disaster, documents have come to light that show that top Lebanese officials knew about the existence of the stockpile in the heart of Beirut near residential areas, and did nothing about it.

It still wasn’t clear what caused the fire in a port warehouse that triggered the explosion of the chemicals, which created a shockwave so powerful it was felt as far away as the island of Cyprus more than 200 kilometers (180 miles) across the Mediterranean.

“From one minute to the next, the world changed for people in Beirut,” said Basma Tabaja, deputy head of the International Committee of the Red Cross’s delegation in Lebanon on Tuesday.

The explosion, which obliterated the capital’s port, damaged thousands of apartments and offices in the capital and came on top of an unprecedented economic and financial crisis the country has been mired in since late last year, compounding the nation’s collective distress.

The wife of Rami Kaaki, one of ten firefighters who were killed during the last week's explosion that hit the seaport of Beir

The wife of Rami Kaaki, one of ten firefighters who were killed during the last week’s explosion that hit the seaport of Beirut, mourns during her husband’s funeral at the firefighter headquarters, in Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Meanwhile, behind the scenes contacts got underway Tuesday for the formation of a new government, a day after Prime Minister Hassan Diab resigned. Diab’s government, which was supported by the militant group Hezbollah and its allies, unraveled after the deadly blast, with three ministers announcing they were quitting.

Diab’s government was formed after his predecessor, Saad Hariri, stepped down in October in response to anti-government demonstrations over endemic corruption. It took months of bickering among the leadership factions before they settled on Diab.

Lebanese have demanded an independent Cabinet not backed by any of the political political parties they blame for the mess they are in. Many are also calling for an independent investigation into the port explosion, saying they had zero trust in a local probe.

Lebanese officials have rejected an international investigation. The government, in the last decision it made before resigning Monday, referred the case to the Supreme Judicial Council, Lebanon’s top judicial body, which handles crimes infringing on Lebanon’s national security as well as political and state security crimes.

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Lebanon's Prime Minister Resigns In Wake Of Beirut Explosion, Protests

BEIRUT (AP) — Lebanon’s prime minister stepped down from his job on Monday in the wake of the disastrous Beirut port explosion that triggered public fury, saying he has come to the conclusion that corruption in Lebanon is “bigger than the state.”

In a brief televised speech after three of his ministers resigned, Prime Minister Hassan Diab said that he is taking “a step back” so he can stand with the people “and fight the battle for change alongside them.”

“I declare today the resignation of this government. May God protect Lebanon,” he said, repeating the last phrase three times.

The move risks opening the way to dragged-out negotiations over a new Cabinet amid urgent calls for reform. It follows a weekend of anti-government protests in the wake of the Aug. 4 explosion in Beirut’s port that decimated the facility and caused widespread destruction, killing at least 160 people and injured about 6,000 others.

In this March. 7, 2020 file photo released by the Lebanese Government, Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab, gives a speech at the Government House in Beirut, Lebanon.

The moment typified Lebanon’s political dilemma. Since October, there have been mass demonstrations demanding the departure of the entire sectarian-based leadership over entrenched corruption, incompetence and mismanagement.

But the ruling oligarchy has held onto power for so long — since the end of the civil war in 1990 — that it is difficult to find a credible political figure not tainted by connections to them.

Diab blamed corrupt politicians who preceded him for the “earthquake” that has hit Lebanon.

“They (political class) should have been ashamed of themselves because their corruption is what has led to this disaster that had been hidden for seven years,” he added.

“I have discovered that corruption is bigger than the state and that the state is paralyzed by this (ruling) clique and cannot confront if or get rid of it,” Diab, who was a university professor at the American University of Beirut before he took the job.

Although Diab’s resignation had appeared inevitable after the catastrophe, he seemed unwilling to leave and only two days ago made a televised speech in which he offered to stay on for two months to allow for various factions to agree on a roadmap for reforms. But the pressure from within his own Cabinet proved to be too much.

Diab’s government was formed after his predecessor, Saad Hariri, stepped down in October in response to the demonstrations. It took months of bickering among the leadership factions before they settled on Diab.

His government, which was supported by Hezbollah and its allies and seen as one-sided, was basically doomed from the start, tasked with meeting demands for reform but made up of all the factions that reformers want out. Now the process must start again, with Diab’s government in a caretaker role as the same factions debate a new one.

“I hope that the caretaking period will not be long because the country cannot take that. Lets hope a new government will be formed quickly,” Public Works Minister Michel Najjar told reporters. “An effective government is the least we need to get out of this crisis.”

The weekend protests saw clashes with security forces firing tear gas at protesters.

Demonstrators march past a damaged building holding candles and flashlights honoring the victims of the deadly explosion at B

Demonstrators march past a damaged building holding candles and flashlights honoring the victims of the deadly explosion at Beirut port which devastated large parts of the capital, in Beirut, Lebanon, Sunday, Aug. 9, 2020. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

The explosion is believed to have been caused by a fire that ignited a 2,750-ton stockpile of highly volatile ammonium nitrate. The material had been stored at the port since 2013 with few safeguards despite numerous warnings of the danger.

The result was a disaster Lebanese blame squarely on their leadership’s corruption and neglect. Losses from the catastrophic blast are estimated to be between $10 billion to $15 billion, with nearly 300,000 people left homeless.

The last decision taken by Diab’s government before its resignation was to refer the case of the explosion to the Supreme Judicial Council, which handles crimes infringing on Lebanon’s national security as well as political and state security crimes. The Supreme Judicial Council is Lebanon’s top judicial body.

A judge on Monday questioned the heads of the country’s security agencies. Public Prosecutor Ghassan El Khoury questioned Maj. Gen. Tony Saliba, the head of State Security, according to state-run National News Agency. It gave no further details, but other generals are scheduled to be questioned.

State Security had compiled a report about the dangers of storing the material at the port and sent a copy to the offices of the president and prime minister on July 20. The investigation is focused on how the ammonium nitrate came to be stored at the port and why nothing was done about it.

Najjar, the public works minister, said he learned about the material’s presence 24 hours before the blast, receiving a report about the material and holding a meeting with port officials before calling its chief, Hassan Korayetem.

“I wrote a report in the morning the explosion happened in the evening,” Najjar said. Asked why he only learned of it the day before, Najjar said, “I don’t know. Truly I don’t know.”

About 20 people have been detained after the blast, including the head of Lebanon’s customs department and his predecessor, as well as the head of the port. Dozens of people have been questioned, including two former Cabinet ministers, according to government officials.

In this photo taken from footage from a drone and provided by the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry press service, rescue

In this photo taken from footage from a drone and provided by the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry press service, rescue teams search for missing people near the site of last Tuesday’s explosion.

On Sunday, world leaders and international organizations pledged nearly $300 million in emergency humanitarian aid to Beirut, but warned that no money for rebuilding the capital would be made available until Lebanese authorities commit themselves to the political and economic reforms demanded by the people.

Iran, meanwhile, expressed concern that Western countries and their allies might exploit anger over the explosion to pursue their political interests. Iran supports the Hezbollah militant group, which along with its allies dominates the government and parliament.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said “it is natural for people to be frustrated.” But he said it would be “unacceptable if some individuals, groups and foreign countries use the incident as a pretext for their purposes and intentions.”

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz drew a line Monday between the blast and claims that Hezbollah stores its rockets and weapons deep inside civilian areas.

While he did not accuse Hezbollah and its arms of being linked to the blast, Gantz said villages and towns across Lebanon were packed with Hezbollah arms that, if set off — whether by Israeli operations or by accident — would destroy homes. He said Hezbollah was Lebanon’s biggest problem.

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Postal Service Reshuffles Leadership As Democrats Push For Answers On Delays

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Postal Service says it lost $2.2 billion in the three months that ended in June as the beleaguered agency — hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic — piles up financial losses that officials warn could top $20 billion over two years.

But the new postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, disputed reports that his agency is slowing down election mail or any other mail and said it has “ample capacity to deliver all election mail securely and on time” for the November presidential contest, when a significant increase in mail-in ballots is expected.

Still, DeJoy offered a gloomy picture of the 630,000-employee agency Friday in his first public remarks since taking the top job in June.

“Our financial position is dire, stemming from substantial declines in mail volume, a broken business model and a management strategy that has not adequately addressed these issues,″ DeJoy told the postal board of governors at a meeting Friday.

“Without dramatic change, there is no end in sight,″ DeJoy said.

While package deliveries to homebound Americans were up more than 50%, that was offset by continued declines in first-class and business mail, even as costs increased significantly to pay for personal protective equipment and replace workers who got sick or chose to stay home in fear of the virus, DeJoy said.

Without an intervention from Congress, the agency faces an impending cash flow crisis, he said. The Postal Service is seeking an infusion of at least $10 billion to cover operating losses as well as regulatory changes that would undo a congressional requirement that the agency pre-fund billions of dollars in retiree health benefits.

The agency is doing its part, said DeJoy, a Republican fundraiser and former supply chain executive who took command of the agency June 15. DeJoy, 63, of North Carolina, is a major donor to President Donald Trump and the Republican Party. He is the first postmaster general in nearly two decades who is not a career postal employee.

In his first month on the job, DeJoy said, he directed the agency to vigorously “focus on the ingrained inefficiencies in our operations,″ including by applying strict limits on overtime.

“By running our operations on time and on schedule, and by not incurring unnecessary overtime or other costs, we will enhance our ability to be sustainable and … continue to provide high-quality, affordable service,″ DeJoy said.

While not acknowledging widespread complaints by members of Congress about delivery delays nationwide, DeJoy said the agency will “aggressively monitor and quickly address service issues.″

DeJoy’s remarks came as lawmakers from both parties called on the Postal Service to immediately reverse operational changes that are causing delays in deliveries across the country just as big volume increases are expected for mail-in election voting.

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said Thursday that changes imposed by DeJoy “threaten the timely delivery of mail — including medicines for seniors, paychecks for workers and absentee ballots for voters — that is essential to millions of Americans.″

In his remarks to the postal board of governors, DeJoy called election mail handling “a robust and proven process.″

While there will “likely be an unprecedented increase in election mail volume due to the pandemic, the Postal Service has ample capacity to deliver all election mail securely and on time in accordance with our delivery standards, and we will do so,″ DeJoy said. “However … we cannot correct the errors of (state and local) election boards if they fail to deploy processes that take our normal processing and delivery standards into account.″

Later Friday, DeJoy released another memo detailing changes that reshuffle dozens of officials on his executive leadership team. The former chief operating officer, David Williams, was moved to lead logistics and processing operations, while Kevin McAdams, vice president of delivery and retail operations, was removed from leadership.

DeJoy said the changes — which also include a management hiring freeze — would improve efficiency and “align functions based on core business operations.″

Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., chairwoman of the House Oversight Committee, said DeJoy should not be instituting such major changes during “the middle of a once-in-a-century pandemic with a national election around the corner.″ Maloney, who has called DeJoy to testify before her committee next month, demanded he ”halt these changes now.”

DeJoy ran into similar resistance at a closed-door meeting Wednesday with Schumer and Pelosi. Schumer called it “a heated discussion” and said Democrats told DeJoy that “elections are sacred.” They urged him not to impose cutbacks “at a time when all ballots count,″ Schumer said.

In separate letters, two Montana Republicans, Sen. Steve Daines and Rep. Greg Gianforte, also urged the Postal Service to reverse the July directive, which eliminates overtime for hundreds of thousands of postal workers and mandates that mail be kept until the next day if distribution centers are running late.

And 84 House members — including four Republicans — signed yet another letter blasting the changes and urging an immediate reversal. “It is vital that the Postal Service does not reduce mail delivery hours, which could harm rural communities, seniors, small businesses and millions of Americans who rely on the mail for critical letters and packages,″ the House members wrote.

The flurry of letters came as the top Democrat on a Senate panel that oversees the Postal Service launched an investigation into the operational changes. Michigan Sen. Gary Peters, the top Democrat on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said DeJoy has failed to provide answers about the service delays, despite repeated requests.

Democrats have pushed for $10 billion for the Postal Service in talks with Republicans on a huge COVID-19 response bill. The figure is down from a $25 billion plan in a House-passed coronavirus measure. Key Republicans whose rural constituents are especially reliant on the post office support the idea.

Trump, a vocal critic of the Postal Service, contended Wednesday that “the Post Office doesn’t have enough time” to handle a significant increase in mail-in ballots. “I mean you’re talking about millions of votes. .. It’s a catastrophe waiting to happen.″

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Milwaukee Chief Who Ordered Tear Gassing Of George Floyd Protesters May Lose Job

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — An oversight board is considering firing Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales after he ordered officers to use tear gas to break up protests over George Floyd’s death, the last straw for members upset with how the chief has handled incidents since the arrest of Milwaukee Bucks player Sterling Brown in 2018.

The city’s Fire and Police Commission was set to decide Morales’ fate at a meeting Thursday evening. The decision could leave Wisconsin’s largest police department without a leader as the city grapples with a surge in gun violence and plans security for the Democratic National Convention.

Milwaukee’s mayor has urged the commission to slow down, but Morales’ attorney, Franklyn Gimbel, said the odds appear stacked against the chief.

“I’m unaware of him having any supporters (on the commission),” Gimbel, said. “There seems like a cumulative sense that they want to dump the guy.”

Morales is Latino and the majority of the commissioners are Black. His relationship with the board has deteriorated since it named him to the post in February 2018.

Gimbel said problems began when officers arrested Brown for parking illegally in January 2018. Officers swarmed the Bucks guard and used a stun gun on him when he didn’t remove his hands from his pockets. The commission’s chairman, Steven DeVougas, who is Black, told Morales to fire one of the officers involved but Morales refused, the attorney said.

“From there it got stressful,” Gimbel said. “DeVougas viewed him as not being a team player.”

In February, the Milwaukee Police Association, which represents rank-and-file officers, filed an ethics complaint against DeVougas alleging he accompanied a real estate developer during an interview with police who suspected the developer of sexual assault. DeVougas practices real estate law for the developer’s business. The police association argued DeVougas’ presence during the interview was a misuse of his position as commission chairman. A city ethics board is investigating.

Fast forward to May and June, when Milwaukee police used tear gas and pepper spray to disperse protesters demonstrating over Floyd’s death. Floyd, who was Black, died on Memorial Day in Minneapolis after a white police officer pressed his knee into his neck for nearly eight minutes.

The decision to use tear gas and pepper spray drew criticism from Democratic Mayor Tom Barrett. The commission in July banned the police department from using tear gas, prompting a number of departments from across the state slated to help with convention security to rescind their support.

The commission on July 20 ordered Morales to produce reams of records related to multiple incidents, including the decision to tear gas and pepper spray protesters, Brown’s arrest and the June arrest of a local activist on suspicion of burglary. The panel also demanded Morales draft community policing standards, develop a discipline matrix to clarify how officers are disciplined and draft a policy requiring officers to wear face masks during the pandemic.

“We are in the midst of an urgent overdue reckoning on race and policing in this country,” the commission said in a statement Monday. “Only with transparency, accountability and truth will we move on as a society. This discussion may make some uncomfortable, and may bluntly scare others.”

None of the commissioners, including DeVougas, returned messages Thursday.

The commission gave Morales a week to respond to some of the requests and threatened to discipline or fire him if he didn’t comply. Gimbel has said those expectations are ridiculous; he noted the commission gave Morales’ predecessor, Ed Flynn, 50 days to respond to a similar request for information on the department’s pursuit policy.

The police department Wednesday blasted the orders as vague, invalid and possibly illegal. The department noted the orders weren’t approved during an open meeting and the requests seek information from still-open criminal and internal investigations.

The orders also could violate a 2018 settlement with the American Civil Liberties Union over stop-and-frisk policies because the department would have to release confidential information it has been sharing with a consultant group monitoring compliance with the settlement, the department said.

“The (orders) attempt to paint a picture that MPD has been non-compliant or outright insubordinate with the FPC,” the department said in a statement. “The manner in which business is being conducted at the FPC causes alarm.”

Barrett, the mayor, dove into the fray on Wednesday, sending a letter to the commission calling for an “orderly review” of the orders and the commission to remove DeVougas as chairman since he’s under investigation.

Follow Todd Richmond on Twitter at https://twitter.com/trichmond1

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State Department Watchdog Resigns After Predecessor's Ouster

WASHINGTON (AP) — The State Department’s acting inspector general resigned abruptly on Wednesday following the firing of his predecessor in circumstances now being investigated by Congress.

Stephen Akard announced his resignation just two days after Democrats issued subpoenas for several of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s top aides to answer questions about the shakeup in the watchdog’s office. The department said Akard would return to the private sector but offered no other reason for his departure.

“We appreciate his dedication to the department and to our country,” the department said in a statement. Akard’s deputy, Diana Shaw, will serve as the new acting inspector general once Akard leaves on Friday.

Although Akard had not been expected to become the permanent inspector general, his departure underscores the tumult and uncertainty in the office, which has been wracked by Republican charges of leaks and politically biased investigations.

Democrats have alleged that Pompeo sought the ouster of Akard’s predecessor, Stephen Linick, because Linick was investigating allegations of impropriety by Pompeo.

Pompeo has denied the allegations but acknowledged he asked President Donald Trump to fire Linick for poor performance. Akard, who had also served as the director of the Office of Foreign Missions at the State Department, had withdrawn from those investigations.

Inspectors general are independent watchdogs empowered by Congress to evaluate the performance of executive branch agencies and investigate allegations of wrongdoing by government officials. President Donald Trump has taken exception to the work of several of the inspectors general and removed them despite congressional objections.

On Monday, congressional Democrats subpoenaed four senior Pompeo aides for interviews, saying the Trump administration was stonewalling their investigation into Linick’s firing in May. Akard was not among those subpoenaed.

Linick had appeared before investigators in June and said top department officials tried to bully him and dissuade his office from conducting a review of a multibillion dollar arms sale to Saudi Arabia before he was fired. He also said his office was looking into allegations that Pompeo and his wife may have misused government staff to run personal errands and several other matters.

The top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, said the investigation will not end and he expressed concern about Akard’s departure.

“I do not believe he was the right choice to lead the office, but I am concerned that his sudden resignation leaves another opportunity for the Trump qdministration to try to weaken oversight and accountability,” Menendez said. “The ongoing bicameral investigation into the abrupt and unexplained dismissal of IG Linick will continue full speed ahead.”

The subpoenas for closed-door depositions are for Undersecretary of State for Management Brian Bulatao, acting State Department legal adviser Marik String, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Michael Miller and senior adviser Toni A. Porter.

The department flatly rejected the Democrats’ allegations as “egregiously inaccurate” but did not say whether the officials would comply with the subpoenas. Pompeo has rejected allegations that Linick was fired for investigating alleged impropriety and Pompeo has denied he was aware of any such probe into his or his wife’s matters. He has said Linick was removed for not doing his job.

Linick, who had been inspector general since 2013, said he was in a “state of shock” when he was fired. He told congressional investigators that he had opened a review of last year’s $8 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia at the request of lawmakers who claimed Pompeo had inappropriately circumvented Congress to approve the deal. He said Bulatao and String then tried to stop him.

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House Panel Calls New Postmaster General To Explain Mail Delays

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House Oversight Committee has invited the new postmaster general to appear at a September hearing to examine operational changes at the U.S. Postal Service that are causing delays in mail deliveries across the country.

The plan imposed by Louis DeJoy, a Republican fundraiser who took over the top job at the Postal Service in June, eliminates overtime for hundreds of thousands of postal workers and orders that mail be kept until the next day if postal distribution centers are running late.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney, a New York Democrat who chairs the Oversight panel, said the Sept. 17 hearing will focus on “the need for on-time mail delivery during the ongoing pandemic and upcoming election,” which is expected to include a major expansion of mail-in ballots.

In this Wednesday, May 6, 2020, photo, United States Postal Service carrier Henrietta Dixon gets into her truck to deliver mail in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

President Donald Trump has warned that allowing more people to vote by mail will result in a “CORRUPT ELECTION” that will “LEAD TO THE END OF OUR GREAT REPUBLICAN PARTY,” even though there’s no evidence that will happen. Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and other top administration officials frequently vote absentee themselves.

Last week, Trump even floated on Twitter the prospect of delaying the Nov. 3 election — an idea lawmakers from both parties quickly shot down.

Trump said Monday that the cash-strapped Postal Service is ill-equipped to add the expected influx of mail-in ballots to its responsibility to deliver mail and packages from the boom in internet shopping.

“I don’t think the post office is prepared for a thing like this,” Trump said at the White House.

Trump also has called the Postal Service “a joke” and said package shipping rates should be at least four times higher for heavy users like Amazon. But shipping and packages are actually a top revenue generator for the Postal Service, and critics say Trump is merely looking to punish Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos in retaliation for unflattering coverage in The Washington Post, which Bezos owns.

The Oversight committee intended to have the hearing with DeJoy this week, Maloney said, but was told DeJoy could not attend because of a meeting of the Postal Service’s Board of Governors. DeJoy has confirmed his availability for the September session, she said.

The hearing comes as the Postal Service is reeling from mail delays and financial problems, even as record numbers of mail ballots are expected in the presidential election because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Postal Service officials, bracing for steep losses from the nationwide shutdown caused by the virus, have warned they will run out of money by the end of September without help from Congress. The service reported a $4.5 billion loss for the quarter ending in March, before the full effects of the shutdown sank in, and expects losses totaling more than $22 billion over the next 18 months.

“The Postal Service is in a financially unsustainable position, stemming from substantial declines in mail volume and a broken business model,″ DeJoy said in a statement last week. “We are currently unable to balance our costs with available funding sources to fulfill both our universal service mission and other legal obligations. Because of this, the Postal Service has experienced over a decade of financial losses, with no end in sight, and we face an impending liquidity crisis.″

Bills approved by the Democratic-controlled House would set aside $25 billion to keep the mail flowing, but they remain stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate. Congress has approved a $10 billion line of credit for the Postal Service, but it remains unused amid restrictions imposed by the Trump administration.

The Postal Service and Treasury Department announced an agreement in principle on loan terms last week, with a formal agreement expected in the next few weeks. Even with the loan, the Postal Service “remains on an unsustainable path and we will continue to focus on improving operational efficiency,″ DeJoy said.

Besides cutting overtime, the new plan halts late trips that are sometimes needed to ensure on-time delivery. If postal distribution centers are running late, “they will keep the mail for the next day,″ Postal Service leaders say in a document obtained by The Associated Press. “One aspect of these changes that may be difficult for employees is that — temporarily — we may see mail left behind or mail on the workroom floor or docks,″ another document says.

Democratic lawmakers have demanded answers from DeJoy following complaints from constituents about mail service delays and other problems.

“It is essential that the Postal Service not slow down mail or in any way compromise service for veterans, small businesses, rural communities, seniors and millions of Americans who rely on the mail – including significant numbers who will be relying on the Postal Service to exercise their right to vote,” a group of Democratic senators wrote in a letter to DeJoy last week.

The senators, including Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and Michigan Sen. Gary Peters, the top Democrat on a panel that oversees the Postal Service, said any changes to Postal Service operations “must be carefully considered to ensure they do not limit service for Americans who rely on the mail for essentials, especially during a pandemic.″

In a separate letter, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., asked DeJoy to clarify whether the Postal Service plans to close some post offices and reduce hours at others in his rural state. Signs at some locations announced proposed closures as soon as Aug. 22 or 24, Manchin said, calling any such action a violation of both federal law and Postal Service rules that require 120 days’ notice before any closures.

“In many areas where reliable broadband is not an option, the Postal Service is their only link to medicine, Social Security checks and family members,″ Manchin said. “Under new social distancing mandates, the Postal Service has become even more essential in keeping rural communities connected and economically viable.″

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