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Wake Up To Politics - August 17, 2020

It’s Monday, August 17, 2020. Election Day is 78 days away. Have questions, comments, or tips? Email me.

House to return as calls for Postal Service oversight grow

The House will cut short its summer recess and return to Washington this week to vote on legislation blocking changes at the U.S. Postal Service, Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced on Sunday.

The chamber, which wasn’t slated to return until September 14, will likely vote on Saturday on the “Delivering for America Act,” which prohibits the Postal Service from “implementing any changes to operations or level of service it had in place on January 1, 2020.”

Pelosi’s announcement came after many rank-and-file Democrats called for increased oversight of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a former Trump megadonor who took over leadership of the USPS in June. DeJoy has since instituted a series of controversial measures, including limiting overtime hours for mail carriers and removing mail sorting machines.

While DeJoy has defended these changes as cutting costs for an agency long mired in financial woes, they have also given way to widespread postal delays, leading some Democrats to allege the measures are part of a political effort to interfere with mail-in voting. President Trump has been critical of mail-in voting since its use has increased amid the coronavirus pandemic; he admitted last week that his opposition to an increase in USPS funding was intended to limit voters’ ability to vote by mail in the upcoming election.

The Postal Service has warned 46 states and the District of Columbia that their election rules are “incongruous” with the agency’s capabilities and may result in mail-in ballots going uncounted, even if they are sent on time according to current state regulations. As many as 80 million Americans are expected to vote by mail in the 2020 election, more than double those who did so in 2016. President Trump has claimed that the surge in mail-in voting will lead to an increase in voter fraud and an advantage for Democratic candidates, although neither claim has any evidence.

In addition to voting on legislation this weekend, congressional Democrats are ramping up efforts to investigate the Postal Service. House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) sent letters Sunday to DeJoy and Postal Service Board of Governors Chairman Robert Duncan requesting their testimony at a hearing scheduled for August 24; several lawmakers have called for DeJoy and Duncan to be subpoenaed if they decline to appear.

The Postal Service’s inspector general is also reviewing DeJoy’s recent policy changes, while attorneys general from at least six states are considering lawsuits to ensure mail service is protected through November.

Useful tool: FiveThirtyEight has created a state-by-state voting guide to help sort through how to vote in the 2020 election.

DNC Day 1: Virtual convention kicks off

Every four years, both major parties convene in a big city for their national conventions — a week of rollicking festivities that traditionally bring together throngs of party activists and journalists for speeches, parties, and a balloon drop to cap things off.

This year, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to haunt the nation, both conventions will be significantly downsized. The Democratic event, which begins tonight, will be held completely virtually.

Delegates will be homebound and speakers will beam in from locations throughout the country. Instead of gathering in Milwaukee, the scheduled site, the party has dubbed it a “Convention Across America.” Speeches will also be shorter than usual, down to just a couple of minutes or less to fit into a total of two hours for four nights.

The theme for tonight is “We the People,” and speakers will span the ideological spectrum, from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a democratic socialist, to former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican. The night’s featured speaker will be former First Lady Michelle Obama, who will deliver a highly-anticipated address in support of presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

As Democrats prepare to formally nominate Biden on Tuesday, he continues to lead President Trump in public opinion polls. A spate of new polls released this weekend included surveys from CNN/SSRS (Biden +4), NBC/Wall Street Journal (Biden +9), and ABC/Washington Post (Biden +12).

Biden’s campaign has also benefited from a burst of enthusiasm after his selection last week of California Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate. Harris’ selection, which made her the first Black woman on a national ticket, drew 54% approval in the ABC/Washington Post poll released Sunday.

Harris will accept the party’s vice-presidential nomination on Wednesday, while Biden is slated to speak the following day.

How to watch: The Democratic convention will air from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. Eastern Time for the next four nights. Broadcast networks are scheduled to carry just the final hour, while most cable networks will be covering both. The full event will be streamed here.

Weekend Review

Three top stories from the weekend:

DHS officials serving illegally: “Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf and Acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli were invalidly appointed to their positions and are ineligible to serve, a congressional watchdog determined Friday.”

“The Government Accountability Office — Congress’ independent investigative arm — concluded that after the resignation of Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen in April 2019, an improper succession occurred, with Kevin McAleenan taking on the position. McAleenan then altered the order of succession for other officials to succeed him after his departure.” (Politico)

President’s younger brother dies: “Robert S. Trump, the younger brother of President Trump, died on Saturday night in Manhattan. He was 71.”

...“ ‘He was not just my brother, he was my best friend,’ the president said in a statement. ‘He will be greatly missed, but we will meet again.’ ” (New York Times)

Former FBI lawyer to plead guilty in review of Russia probe: “A former FBI lawyer is expected to plead guilty on a charge of altering a document used to seek the continued surveillance of a former Trump campaign adviser, the first criminal charge stemming from a long-running review of the actions of investigators who worked on the politically charged probe.”

“Kevin Clinesmith, an attorney who worked with Federal Bureau of Investigation agents on some of the surveillance warrants against the onetime foreign-policy adviser, Carter Page, will plead guilty to a false statement charge involving an email, according to documents filed in federal court on Friday.” (Wall Street Journal)


All times Eastern.

President Donald Trump will speak at campaign events in Mankato, Minnesota, at 3 p.m. and in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, at 5:30 p.m.

Vice President Mike Pence has no public events scheduled.

The House and Senate are on recess.

The Supreme Court is on summer recess.

The Democratic National Convention will feature speeches by former First Lady Michelle Obama, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY), Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI), Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC), Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI), former Gov. John Kasich (R-OH), Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL), and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m.

The convention will also feature performances by Maggie Rodgers and Leon Bridges.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden will attend a virtual fundraiser.

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