Trump opposes funding USPS in bid to block vote by mail, critics suggest

iStock/Andrei Stanescu

iStock/Andrei StanescuBY: MIRIAM KHAN

(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump suggested in a Fox News interview on Thursday that he is unwilling to strike a deal with Democrats that includes desperately-needed funds for the ailing U.S. Postal Service, and his critics are warning his opposition could hinder mail-in voting during the election in November.

Trump has for weeks railed against mail-in voting, making numerous false claims that he repeats regularly in a bid to question the integrity of the upcoming election by asserting that mail-in voting will lead to voter fraud. The new head of the U.S. Postal Service, Louis DeJoy – a Trump donor – recently made several changes to the agency that could potentially disrupt mail for millions of Americans, particularly absentee and mail-in ballots ahead of Election Day.

"Now, they need that money in order to make the Post Office work, so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots," Trump said Thursday on Fox News.

"Now, if we don’t make a deal, that means they don’t get the money. That means they can’t have universal mail-in voting, they just can’t have it," he added.

His latest suggestion Thursday further fueled allegations from critics that he is seeking to manipulate the postal system for political gain.

This follows comments Trump made just the day before, on Wednesday, at his daily pandemic press briefing. Trump said he would not approve $25 billion in emergency funding for the Postal Service, or $3.5 billion in supplemental funding for election resources, citing high costs.

"They don’t have the money to do the universal mail-in voting. So therefore, they can’t do it, I guess," Trump said. "Are they going to do it even if they don’t have the money?"

In May, Democrats passed legislation to address the ongoing coronavirus public health crisis that included allocating $25 billion over three years to the Postal Service. Democratic leaders also proposed an additional $3.5 billion in supplemental funding to protect federal elections.

Democrats have insisted that the proposed $25 billion for the USPS came in a plea directly from the agency’s Board of Governors and not from Democrats themselves.

The backlash to the president’s comments was swift.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared Trump as "afraid of the American people" and blamed him for creating obstacles for voters.

"There are people who think that the Post Office is election central in this election. Maybe the president thinks that, too, and that's why he wants to shut it down," Pelosi said Thursday during her weekly press briefing on Capitol Hill. "The president is afraid of the American people. He's been afraid for a while, he knows that on the legit, it'd be hard for him to win. So he wants to put obstacles of participation."

"…it's a health issue, you shouldn't have to choose between your health and your ability to cast your vote," she added.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, Trump declared: "There's nothing wrong with getting out and voting. You get out and vote. They voted during World War I and World War II."

Presumptive presidential nominee Joe Biden’s campaign also weighed in to cry foul over the president’s statements, calling his accusations an "assault on our democracy."

"The President of the United States is sabotaging a basic service that hundreds of millions of people rely upon, cutting a critical lifeline for rural economies and for delivery of medicines, because he wants to deprive Americans of their fundamental right to vote safely during the most catastrophic public health crisis in over 100 years -- a crisis so devastatingly worsened by his own failed leadership that we are now the hardest hit country in the world by the coronavirus pandemic," Biden spokesman Andrew Bates said in a statement.

"Even Donald Trump's own campaign has endorsed voting by mail and his own administration has conclusively refuted his wild-eyed conspiracy theories about the most secure form of voting. This is an assault on our democracy and economy by a desperate man who's terrified that the American people will force him to confront what he's done everything in his power to escape for months -- responsibility for his own actions," Bates said.

Pelosi, D-Calif., and 174 other Democrats signed a letter sent Wednesday to DeJoy demanding the agency reverses those operational changes they contend would hamper mail-in voting on Nov. 3.

"It is always essential that the Postal Service be able to deliver mail in a timely and effective manner. During the once-in-a-century health and economic crisis of COVID-19, the Postal Service's smooth functioning is a matter of life-or-death, and is critical for protecting lives, livelihoods and the life of our American Democracy," the lawmakers said in their letter.

"The House is seriously concerned that you are implementing policies that accelerate the crisis at the Postal Service, including directing Post Offices to no longer treat all election mail as First Class. If implemented now, as the election approaches, this policy will cause further delays to election mail that will disenfranchise voters and put significant financial pressure on election jurisdictions."

Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer also held a meeting with DeJoy on Capitol Hill earlier this month that Schumer later told reporters was "heated."

DeJoy released his own statement this month defending his practices.

"Although 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 in a statement.

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