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Postal Service blocked lawmakers from key evidence on DeJoy’s selection, Schumer says

The Senate’s top Democrat says he has new evidence that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin intervened in the postmaster general appointment process.

Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.) will question the postmaster general for more details about the suspension of policy changes at a House hearing on Aug. 24. (Video: The Washington Post)

The U.S. Postal Service blocked congressional lawmakers from interrogating the firm that helped select Louis DeJoy as the nation’s postmaster general, prompting a sharp rebuke from Senate Democratic Leader Charles E. Schumer, who called on the organization Wednesday to be more transparent as a federal investigation unfolds.

The spat over access has hindered lawmakers as they investigate DeJoy’s recent, controversial changes to mail delivery and, in the process, potentially concealed key details about the involvement of President Trump and his top aides in those decisions, Schumer (N.Y.) warned in a letter to the agency. The missive threatens to add to the already sky-high tensions between the administration and the Senate as DeJoy prepares to testify at a Senate hearing Friday, then a House hearing on Monday.

Postmaster general announces he is ‘suspending’ policies blamed for mail delays

Schumer fired off his initial inquiry to the USPS in June, asking to learn more about the process that selected DeJoy, a former top Republican fundraiser, to lead the Postal Service. The postmaster general is a position filled by the USPS Board of Governors, which in this case relied on an executive search firm, Russell Reynolds Associates, to guide its thinking.

About a month later, the board responded to Schumer, telling him that “much of the information I requested was confidential” and declining to provide it, the Democratic leader said in his Wednesday note. A lawyer for the executive search firm said the postal board had refused to waive a nondisclosure agreement, blocking Congress from conducting “oversight obligations to better understand the selection of Mr. DeJoy,” according to Schumer.

Schumer further sought to learn if the White House and Treasury Department intervened in the search process, particularly given Trump’s prominent attacks on the Postal Service and mail-in voting. The top Senate Democrat said his office on its own learned about previously undisclosed contacts between Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and the board’s governors, which troubled Schumer, as the board had not disclosed such communications.

In response, Schumer called on the USPS board to release the search from its nondisclosure agreement and provide more information about Trump and Mnuchin’s involvement in DeJoy’s selection.

“The administration has repeatedly pointed to the role of Russell Reynolds to defend the selection of a Republican megadonor with no prior experience as Postmaster general while at the same time blocking the ability of Congress to obtain briefings from the firm and concealing the role of Secretary Mnuchin and the White House in the search process,” Schumer wrote.

A spokesperson from the Treasury Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment. USPS declined to comment, and a White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity, praised DeJoy for his work but said that the board, not the president, had selected him for the job.

How Trump was able to shape the Postal Service board to enact a new agenda

Schumer’s public rebuke comes amid a frenetic week for the Postal Service as DeJoy and Robert M. Duncan, the chairman of the USPS Board of Governors, prepare to face off against federal lawmakers over the next two weeks.

On Tuesday, 21 states announced plans to sue the mail service and DeJoy, arguing that his policy changes had slowed down mail and threatened to undermine their states’ abilities to collect and count ballots during the 2020 presidential election. The USPS’s actions have taken on added urgency at a time when Trump continues to claim without evidence that mail-in voting is a vector for massive fraud, a line of attacks that critics say is an attempt to delegitimize the November vote.

Under siege from the states, DeJoy said hours later that he would “suspend” his efforts to impose service reductions, rethink overtime pay and remove mail-sorting machines and public-collection boxes.

“I came to the Postal Service to make changes to secure the success of this organization and its long-term sustainability,” DeJoy said in a statement Tuesday. “I believe significant reforms are essential to that objective, and work toward those reforms will commence after the election.”

“In the meantime, there are some long-standing operational initiatives — efforts that predate my arrival at the Postal Service — that have been raised as areas of concern as the nation prepares to hold an election in the midst of a devastating pandemic,” he continued. “To avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail, I am suspending these initiatives until after the election is concluded.”

DeJoy’s reversal has done little to quell anger among congressional Democrats, some of whom have called for his removal by the board, an organization currently consisting of six members who had picked him in the first place. Earlier in the week, lawmakers including Schumer urged the governing body to use its authority to walk back policy changes that they said had kept people from receiving benefits payments and prescription drugs through the mail — and said they should strip DeJoy of his title if he failed to cooperate.

“We need them to just get rid of Louis DeJoy and say, all those mailboxes they took out, all those [mail] sorting machines they took out, the no-overtime policy,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) later said on MSNBC.