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Louis DeJoy Testimony Live Updates: Postmaster General to Face Tough Questions

2020-08-24 13:31:10

DeJoy will appear in person before House lawmakers.

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy will appear before lawmakers again on Monday, this time testifying to the House Oversight Committee, where he is expected to face much tougher questioning from lawmakers on the Democratic-run panel than he did during his Senate hearing on Friday.

Mr. DeJoy is expected to continue defending the cost-cutting measures he has put in place and push back against suggestions that the changes are intended to influence the 2020 election by making mail-in voting less reliable.

Robert M. Duncan, the chairman of the Postal Service’s board of governors, will also testify on Monday, the first public remarks he has given on the state of the embattled agency. Mr. Duncan, who was appointed by President Trump in 2017 and confirmed by the Senate in 2018, oversees the service and spearheaded the selection of Mr. DeJoy, introducing his name into the search process as a contender.

Mr. Duncan will tell lawmakers that “there must be dramatic changes” to the Postal Service if it is to succeed and that Mr. DeJoy was chosen to be a “transformational leader,” according to his prepared testimony obtained by The New York Times.

Mr. DeJoy is embroiled in a political firestorm as recent changes aimed at reducing the Postal Service’s costs — including cutting overtime and limiting trips — have led to delays in mail delivery, including medicine, pension checks and bills. That has fueled concerns about whether the service will be able to handle what is expected to be a record number of mail-in ballots for the 2020 election.

The Times will be streaming the hearing, which begins at 10 a.m.

Here’s what to watch as the hearing gets underway.

DeJoy is not expected to deviate from Friday’s defensive posture.

So far, Mr. DeJoy plans to provide the same message to the House that he did to the Senate. His opening statement is the same one he provided to the Senate committee, according to a review of the prepared remarks.

That testimony refers to a “false narrative” that Mr. DeJoy says is being promoted about both his intentions and the changes, which he says are needed to help the Postal Service’s financial woes but that civil rights groups, state attorneys general and Democrats have derided as an attempt to disenfranchise voters.

Mr. DeJoy, a major donor to Mr. Trump and other Republicans, on Friday called suggestions that he might intentionally slow ballot delivery to sway the election “outrageous.”

But lawsuits filed by several states, as well as complaints filed with lawmakers, have asserted that there are widespread problems with mail delivery that could portend problems in November. Six states and the District of Columbia sued Mr. DeJoy and the Postal Service on Friday, saying that recent operational and policy changes were illegal and “designed to undermine” the agency’s ability to operate effectively.

The complaint says dead animals and rotting food have been left inside mail processing plants, state pension checks in Delaware have been delayed and medication deliveries in rural North Carolina have run two weeks late.

Under tough questioning from lawmakers on Friday, including Republicans, Mr. DeJoy acknowledged that the moves had slowed some mail delivery and reiterated that he would suspend his cost-cutting measures until after the election.

But he said his planned to radically overhaul the Postal Service were necessary because of its financial problems. And he challenged lawmakers to revamp the agency’s retirement benefit obligations that Congress imposed years ago, which have driven the agency tens of billions of dollars into the red.

Lawmakers will focus on how DeJoy was hired.

A central line of questioning on Monday is expected to focus on how the board of governors selected Mr. DeJoy, a logistics executive whose name was not on an initial list of candidates provided to the board.

Among the questions lawmakers are likely to ask: What role did Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin play in the search for a new leader? As The Times reported on Saturday, Mr. Mnuchin was a key player in selecting the board members who hired Mr. DeJoy and in pushing the agenda that he has pursued.

[Read more about Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s role in the selection process.]

Late last week, David C. Williams, the former vice chairman of the board of governors, who was appointed by Mr. Trump as a Democratic member of the panel, told House Democrats in scathing testimony that Mr. DeJoy was the least qualified candidate the board interviewed for the job, and that Mr. Duncan had suggested him to the panel.

Mr. Williams also accused Mr. Mnuchin of politicizing the Postal Service, an independent agency whose leader has been walled off from the White House since 1970.

When he resigned from the board in protest on the eve of Mr. DeJoy’s selection, Mr. Williams said that no serious background investigation into the candidate had been conducted — despite his request for one — and that a brief review by the agency’s inspector general had surfaced potential concerns about contract work Mr. DeJoy’s logistics firm had done for the Postal Service.

Mr. Duncan will rebut Mr. Williams’s accusations that Mr. DeJoy was not qualified and not investigated. In his prepared remarks, Mr. Duncan said the board reviewed more than 200 qualified candidates, who underwent background checks and were vetted by executive search firms.

DeJoy will face pressure to reverse recent policy changes.

Mr. DeJoy’s decision last week to suspend cost-cutting and other operational changes until after the November election has done little to mollify critics, including union officials and postal workers, who say some of the changes already put in place have done grave damage to the Postal Service.

Democrats will push Mr. DeJoy to commit to reversing the moves.

Lawmakers, along with state attorneys general, have expressed concern over the elimination of overtime, the removal of mailboxes and the reduction of post office hours.

Some of those changes preceded Mr. DeJoy’s tenure — including the removal of mailboxes and mail sorting machines.

Mr. DeJoy vowed on Friday to stop removal of mail processing equipment and blue collection boxes, and told senators that he did not know about the machine removal when it began, saying it was “not a critical issue within the Postal Service.”

Some of those changes would be hard to unwind, including restoring the mail sorting machines that have been taken out of service. Some have been disassembled or destroyed, according to union officials, postal workers and lawmakers.

Senator Maggie Hassan, Democrat of New Hampshire, told Mr. DeJoy on Friday that several machines in Manchester had been taken out of service.

“Three of them are just sitting there, and I am told that one of them has been dismantled and sold to a company in Pennsylvania for scrap metal,” she said.

Mr. DeJoy is expected to maintain that “dramatic” changes are necessary to address the long-term financial sustainability of the Postal Service.

Lawmakers will question DeJoy over conflicts of interest

Lawmakers are expected to press Mr. DeJoy on his continued financial ties to companies that contract with the Postal Service, investments that have fueled additional scrutiny of the postmaster general and raised questions about his potential conflicts of interest.

Mr. DeJoy continues to hold $25 million to $50 million in XPO Logistics, a $16 billion transportation company where he served as the chief executive of its supply chain business until 2015 and was a board member until 2018. And he continues to earn millions of dollars more in rental payments from XPO through leasing agreements at buildings that he owns, according to his financial disclosure forms.

XPO assists the Postal Service during busy shipping periods, such as around the holidays, moving bulk shipments of packages from fulfillment centers and taking them to local Postal Service centers so mail carriers can deliver them to residences.

In a separate potential conflict of interest, Mr. DeJoy owned between $100,000 and $250,000 in Amazon stock when he joined the administration. But when he divested himself of that stock in June, after he became the postmaster general, he bought a new financial stake in the company, investing between $50,000 and $100,000 in stock options for Amazon, as first reported by CNN.

Mr. DeJoy has insisted that he has fully complied with federal ethics rules and maintained that the new measures he has put in place are necessary to modernize the Postal Service. “I take my ethical obligations seriously,” he said in a statement to The New York Times.

The hearing is expected to have some fireworks.

A number of Democratic lawmakers, who have captured the public’s attention for their incisive cross-examination of witnesses, are likely to take center stage on Monday, including Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Katie Porter of California.

Ms. Porter, along with Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi, Democrat of Illinois, has already pressed the board of governors on possible political motivations for awarding Mr. DeJoy the postmaster general job, and will most likely seize on their own investigative work in their questioning.

Those lawmakers will be countered by Republicans on the oversight panel, who have accused Democrats of pushing a conspiracy theory with their warnings that changes at the Postal Service could jeopardize the integrity of the November election. That line of attack is expected to be led by Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, who is known for his pugnacious demeanor.


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