Trump Holds the Mail Hostage

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

You drop a check for a bill or a greeting card in a blue post office letter box and walk away without a second thought, knowing your mail will arrive, not if.

Not in the twisted age of Trump, who is on a crusade to cripple the mail to try to ensure his reelection.

The president of the United States, not some thuggish Watergate-type hired hand, is undermining the forthcoming election by sabotaging mail-in voting in the midst of a 100-year pandemic, potentially forcing people to risk their lives by standing in line at the polls.

In the height of irony, Donald Trump and his wife have requested mail-in ballots from Miami, according to The Palm Beach Post. He voted by mail in the Florida Republican primary earlier this year.

Trump, a known liar who gets away with it, has been raging for months against mail-in voting, saying without evidence that it’s a platform for fraud and would mean “you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.” But now he’s gone a step further: cutting off money to the Postal Service and overtime payments to its employees to ensure voting by mail will fail because ballots won’t arrive to be counted by the deadline. This subterfuge to openly disrupt an election and disenfranchise voters, this behavior under the guise of making the service more efficient, is beyond the pale.

The outright defilement of a sacred institution that was established in the Constitution in 1787 under Article I, Section 8 is unprecedented in memory. Congress and no one else shall have the power “To establish Post Offices and Post roads.”

It comes as more states plan for balloting by mail to spare voters and poll workers from contracting the coronavirus that leads to COVID-19, which already has killed 166,000 Americans. The mail would be the safest, smartest alternative to showing up at the polls.

But Trump, his overriding effort to defeat Joe Biden sullied by his inexcusable and disastrous abandonment of federal leadership at the outbreak of the virus, is bent on creating a scenario in which he can claim the election will be rigged and thus fake so he can challenge the outcome in court if he doesn’t win.

The Postal Service, which is expecting an unprecedented tsunami of mailed ballots, has notified 46 states and Washington, D.C., that it cannot guarantee they will arrive in time to be counted because of the slowed delivery. Budget cutbacks have delayed mail nationwide. A reported decision to withdraw 10 percent of the service’s mail sorting machines will only worsen the slowdown.

The general counsel for the Postal Service, Thomas J. Marshall, cautioned in letters to the states posted in July that “certain deadlines for requesting and casting mail-in ballots are incongruous with the Postal Service’s delivery standards,” The New York Times reported.

To ensure timely delivery, he said, he told the states to have citizens ask for ballots at least 15 days before the election.

The Democrats, who rule the House, have accused newly appointed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a major contributor to Trump’s campaign, of purposely slowing post office operations to affect the election outcome.

They have called a hearing of the House Oversight Committee for Aug. 24 to have DeJoy testify about operational changes that have caused mail delays of Social Security checks, bills and prescription medicines.

The Democrats have asked for $25 billion for the post office as part of their $3 trillion stimulus package which the House has passed. It has been in the Republican-controlled Senate since May. The GOP wants to spend only $1 trillion during the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression, with 30 million people out of work.

A close look at Trump’s warped machinations illustrates how he bullies us, plays with us the way a cat does with a mouse before the kill, creating chaos and confusion – which is how he runs the White House and the country, to the detriment of the sane.

In one day Thursday, he switched from saying that mail-in voting would mean a dishonest election to appearing willing to allocate money to the Postal Service as a bargaining chip in congressional negotiations for another stimulus bill.

“If we don’t make a deal [on the stimulus package], that means they don’t get the money,” he said in a morning interview on Fox Business. “That means they can’t have universal mail-in voting.”

But he said at a news conference later in response to a question that he would not veto a bill seeking more money for the post office.

“All they have to do is make a deal,” he said of the Democrats. “If they make a deal, the Postal Service is taken care of. The money they need for the mail-in ballots would be taken care of – if we agree to it. That doesn’t mean we are going to agree to it, but all they have to do is make a deal.”

He is holding the respected Postal Service hostage to his demands. There is no art to this deal.

Richard C. Gross, who covered war and peace in the Middle East and was foreign editor of United Press International, served as the opinion page editor of The Baltimore Sun.