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Wake Up To Politics - August 14, 2020

It’s Friday, August 14, 2020. Election Day is 81 days away. Have questions, comments, or tips? Email me.

Trump ties opposition to USPS funding to mail-in voting

President Donald Trump said Thursday that his opposition to an increase in funding for the U.S. Postal Service was tied to his efforts to block the use of mail-in voting in the upcoming election.

“They want $25 billion for the Post Office,” Trump told Fox Business News host Maria Bartiromo in an interview, referring to congressional Democrats. “Now they need that money in order to have the Post Office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots.”

“Now, in the meantime, they aren’t getting there. By the way, those are just two items. But if they don’t get those two items, that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting because they’re not equipped to have it.”

Democrats quickly seized on the president’s comments to accuse him of attempting to undermine the Postal Service for his political purposes. “The president of the United States is sabotaging a basic service that hundreds of millions of people rely upon...because he wants to deprive Americans of their fundamental right to vote safely,” Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates said.

Trump has repeatedly claimed that mail-in voting (which is expected to surge in use this year amid the coronavirus pandemic) will lead to an increase in voter fraud and boost Democratic candidates, although there is no evidence for either claim.

As Postal Service funding becomes a growing flashpoint in ongoing negotiations over coroanvirus relief legislation, the Trump administration is already succeeding in making changes to the agency.  

“The U.S. Postal Service is experiencing days-long backlogs of mail across the country...alarming postal workers who warn that the policies could undermine their ability to deliver ballots on time for the November election,” the Washington Post reported late last month.

A flurry of new reporting in the past 24 hours has emphasized the potential for new procedures put in place by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to interfere with ballots being mailed to voters and then back to election authorities on time. DeJoy, a Republican megadonor, took office in May and promptly made key changes to the Postal Service, including the ouster of two top executives overseeing day-to-day operations.

According to Vice, the Postal Service is “removing mail sorting machines from facilities around the country without any official explanation or reason given.” The machines, the report added, are in many cases the same ones that “would be tasked with sorting ballots.”

As these machines were being removed, according to American Public Media, the agency missed their on-time service goals for handling first-class mail in four key postal districts in recent months, covering all or parts of top battleground states Pennsylvania, Michigan, Florida, Wisconsin, and North Carolina.

The USPS went so far as to warn one of the hotly-contested states, Pennsylvania, that some mail ballots might not be delivered in time, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. The federal agency claimed that the state’s “deadlines for requesting and casting mail-in ballots are incongruous with the Postal Service’s delivery standards.”

A group of 192 House Democrats, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, complained about the changes in a letter to DeJoy on Wednesday. “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,” they wrote. “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.”

DeJoy promised last week that the “Postal Service has ample capacity to deliver all election mail securely and on-time in accordance with our delivery standards.” According to the Washington Post, he is in “frequent contact with top Republican Party officials and met with the president in the Oval Office last week,” at the same time Trump and his allies have ramped up their criticism of mail-in voting.

As the Post chronicled, the “Republican National Committee and conservative groups are pursuing an unprecedented effort to limit expansion of mail balloting before the November election, spending tens of millions of dollars on lawsuits and advertising aimed at restricting who receives ballots and who remains on the voter rolls.”

The efforts by GOP groups to challenge mail-in voting laws comes even as many Republican candidates encourage their voters to cast ballots by mail, fearing that the president’s critiques of mail voting will dampen turnout among the party’s base.

One Republican voter in particular has already requested his vote-by-mail ballot for an upcoming election: Trump himself. According to the Palm Beach Post, the president requested a mail-in ballot on Wednesday to participate in Florida’s primary elections next week, at least his fourth time voting by mail since taking office.

The Rundown

Middle East: “Israel and the United Arab Emirates announced Thursday they are establishing full diplomatic relations in a U.S.-brokered deal that required Israel to halt its contentious plan to annex occupied West Bank land sought by the Palestinians.”

“The historic deal delivered a key foreign policy victory to President Donald Trump as he seeks re-election and reflected a changing Middle East in which shared concerns about archenemy Iran have largely overtaken traditional Arab support for the Palestinians.” Associated Press

2020 Central: “The campaign of Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden has raised $48 million in the 48 hours since he named U.S. Senator Kamala Harris the Democratic vice presidential nominee, a campaign spokesman told Reuters late on Thursday.” Reuters

--- “President Trump, in an echo of his false birtherism claims against President Barack Obama, said Thursday that questions about the eligibility of Sen. Kamala D. Harris to run for vice president were ‘very serious.’ The questions are baseless. Harris (D-Calif.) was born in Oakland, Calif., and is, by the laws of the Constitution, a U.S. citizen.” Washington Post

--- “President Trump on Thursday confirmed to the The Post he intends to give his Republican National Convention speech from the White House lawn, defying critics who said the location was inappropriate.” New York Post

Book Club: “In an upcoming book, Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former attorney, alleges that Trump worked with Russia to win the 2016 presidential election.”

“Among many other accusations, Cohen alleges that Trump worked to get close to Russian President Vladimir Putin and ‘his coterie of corrupt billionaire oligarchs,’ according to an excerpt released Thursday from the book, entitled ‘Disloyal, A Memoir.’” NBC News

Recommended Reads

“A Deadly Coronavirus Was Inevitable. Why Was No One Ready?” Wall Street Journal

“How Biden Chose Harris: A Search That Forged New Stars, Friends and Rivalries” New York Times

“‘The President Was Not Encouraging’: What Obama Really Thought About Biden” Politico Magazine

Plus... A helpful voting resource: “When and how to vote in all 50 states” Axios


All times Eastern.

President Donald Trump will travel to his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, where he will spend the weekend. After arriving, at 5 p.m., he will deliver remarks to the City of New York Police Benevolent Association, the largest union representing New York police officers.

Vice President Mike Pence will participate in a phone call with Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia at 8:30 a.m., lead a White House Coronavirus Task Force meeting at 11 a.m., and participate in a phone call with President Iván Duque Márquez of Colombia at 3:30 p.m.

The House and Senate will both meet for pro forma sessions today. Neither chamber will conduct any business.

The Supreme Court is on summer recess.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris will be photographed signing documents allowing them to receive their formal nominations at the Democratic convention next week. In the evening, Biden will attend a virtual fundraiser.

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