with Brent D. Griffiths

Good morning. It's Thursday. The U.S yesterday reported 1,500 coronavirus deaths, the highest in a single day since mid-May. 

In the agencies

GOING POSTAL: Democrats troubled by mail delivery delays are now seeking to ban political leadership at the U.S. Postal Service from making any changes until the coronavirus pandemic (and, theoretically, the November election) has ended. But some key Democrats — along with a prominent union representing postal workers — suspect the Trump administration's recent dramatic cost-cutting measures and blocked emergency relief are setting the stage for a bigger goal: privatizing mail delivery in this country. 

  • Democrats are seeking an investigation of recently-appointed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy — whose controversial operations changes are being blamed for slowed delivery times, including of primary election ballots, as mail volumes surge during the pandemic — and want to compel the agency to turn back the clock.
  • House Oversight Chair Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.) said she introduced the Delivering for America Act yesterday to “prohibit the Postal Service from implementing any changes to the operations or level of service it had in place on January 1, 2020, until the covid-19 pandemic has ended.”

Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.), chair of the Oversight subcommittee responsible for the Postal Service, told Power Up he believes the “immediate goal” of the overhaul by DeJoy, a President Trump appointee and donor, “is to suppress votes.” But DeJoy's “very disruptive changes,” Connolly said, are also part of a “concerted effort to try to dissuade people from relying on the Postal Service by delaying timely deliveries — and in the longer term, to break apart and privatize USPS.” 

  • “They've made no secret that they'd like to see [USPS] privatized and universal service eliminated,” Connolly told Power Up. “And to justify that, they have to be able to create and point to the dysfunctionality and we're seeing that right now.”
  • Conservatives have long discussed the idea of privatizing mail delivery in the U.S., and Trump's tirades against USPS are no secret. But DeJoy denies this is his intention: “I was not appointed by the Governors to position the Postal Service to be privatized or to manage its decline,” Dejoy told the agency's governing board last week.

DeJoy's denial did little to convince Mark Dimondstein, the president of the American Postal Workers Union, who said he was shocked when the postmaster general did not advocate for any money for the cash-strapped agency during his first public meeting on Friday. “If someone really wants to help the Postal Service thrive and survive, then that should be front and center,” Dimondstein said. “We believe the administration is openly proposing and working toward privatization, breaking it up and getting ready to sell it.” 

DeJoy's stance appears to align with Trump's own position: The president said yesterday he would keep blocking funding for the agency even while he acknowledged USPS needs money for mail-in voting. 

  • “Trump says the U.S. Postal Service is incapable of facilitating mail-in voting because it cannot access the emergency funding he is blocking, and made clear that requests for additional aid were nonstarters in coronavirus relief negotiations,” our colleague Jacob reported. The House's coronavirus relief bill passed in May included $25 billion to help USPS meet the extra challenges during the pandemic.
  • “They don’t have the money to do the universal mail-in voting. So therefore, they can’t do it, I guess,” Trump said. “Are they going to do it even if they don’t have the money?”
  • Flashback: “Trump threatened to veto the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or Cares Act, if the legislation contained any money directed to bail out the postal agency,” Jacob reported in April.

DeJoy's displacement of top executives overseeing day-to-day operations is fueling the speculation on the Hill and among postal workers that the ultimate goal is to privatize. Jacob scooped last week: “Twenty-three postal executives were reassigned or displaced, the new organizational chart shows. Analysts say the structure centralizes power around DeJoy and de-emphasizes decades of institutional postal knowledge.” DeJoy's other changes include eliminating overtime for workers and forbidding extra trips to ensure mail is delivered on time. 

  • “Critics say such a philosophical sea change would sacrifice operational efficiency and cede its competitive edge to UPS, FedEx and other private-sector rivals,” per Jacob.  

Dimondstein thinks these moves are the acceleration of a longtime ambition from the Trump administration, noting that in June 2018, the Office of Management and Budget released a report that openly called for privatization. 

  • “A privatized Postal Service would have a substantially lower cost structure, be able to adapt to changing customer needs and make business decisions free from political interference, and have access to private capital markets to fund operational improvements without burdening taxpayers,” read the report. “The private operation would be incentivized to innovate and improve services to Americans in every community.”

These suspicions trickle down to the workforce. One longtime postal worker told Power Up that DeJoy was clearly “forcing us into privatization.” 

  • “After a long time in this job, for the first time I don't feel secure,” the Postal worker told us. “[Trump] has a serious dislike for the [Postal] Service He's trying to taint our reputation. 
  • “They've put a freeze on hiring at a time when we need more people for the election, and when people need jobs? the worker added. “We've serviced this nation since we were in horses and carriage and these changes are meant to destroy the company and everyone knows it.” 

Save the date: DeJoy is set to appear before the House Oversight panel on September 17 for a hearing on USPS's “operation changes.

  • Another line of questioning: Connolly also slammed DeJoy for his apparent conflicts of interests and lack of institutional experience: CNN's Marshall Cohen reported yesterday that DeJoy “continues to hold a multimillion-dollar stake in his former company XPO Logistics, a U.S. Postal Service contractor, likely creating a major conflict of interest, according to newly obtained financial disclosures and ethics experts.”  

The people

BIDEN, HARRIS GO AFTER TRUMP: “In what were perhaps the most crisp and focused speeches either has given during the presidential campaign, the new running mates defined how they will pursue the general election: with a sharp focus on what they cast as Trump’s inadequacies, an embrace of the power of women, a call to action on climate change and a defense of the protesters who have filled America’s streets in recent months,” Annie Linskey and Matt Viser report from Wilmington, Del.

  • Joe Biden's VP pick Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) slammed the president for his handling of the coronavirus: “America is crying out for leadership, yet we have a president who cares more about himself than the people who elected him, a president who is making every challenge we face even more difficult to solve,” she said, ticking off tectonic shifts in the country, including racial unrest, the shattered economy and the pandemic.
  • Trump retorted by saying, among other things, that Harris left the presidential primaries “angry”: “There was nobody more insulting to Biden than she was. She said horrible things about him … Now all of the sudden she’s running to be vice president saying how wonderful he is,” the president told reporters from the White House briefing room.

A scattershot attack: “The messages emanating from Trump and his allies about the senator from California varied wildly — casting her as both an overzealous prosecutor too tough on crime and an advocate for defunding the police, and as being so far to the left she would institute socialism as well as too moderate to satisfy her party’s progressive base,” Philip Rucker and Isaac Stanley-Becker write of the GOP's struggles to find a consistent attack on Harris.

  • Some Republican strategists urged Trump leave the barbs to others: He’s doing poorly among women with school-age children,” longtime Republican pollster Frank Luntz told our colleagues. "Attacking her will not help that deficit. Other people in the White House and in the campaign should be responsible for that effort.”

Money, money money: Biden announced last night that his campaign has raised $26 million since he announced his running mate, including 150,000 first-time contributions, Matt reports.

On the Hill

A ‘FUTURE REPUBLICAN STAR’?: “Trump and Republican leaders’ embrace of a House candidate who has made racist statements and espoused the QAnon conspiracy theory is again highlighting the party’s willingness to tolerate extreme and bigoted positions,” Rachael Bade and Isaac Stanley-Becker report.

Trump declared Marjorie Taylor Greene, who prevailed in Georgia congressional primary, a “future Republican star”: Greene promotes the QAnon conspiracy theory, whose followers believe Trump is battling a cabal of “deep state” saboteurs of his administration who worship Satan and traffic children for sex, our colleagues write.

  • It's not just conspiracies: “She has also made racist, anti-Semitic and Islamophobic comments, asserting that Black people are ‘held slaves to the Democratic Party,’ likening the election of the first two Muslim women to Congress to an ‘Islamic invasion of our government’ and calling George Soros, the liberal Jewish donor and Holocaust survivor, a ‘Nazi himself trying to continue what was not finished.’"

House Republicans are besides themselves on what to do now: Many, our colleagues report, are privately griping about irresponsible leadership, but few are doing anything to challenge the party's position of supporting those who win the right to carry the GOP's banner into November or ask that Greene not be allowed to join the conference.

  • Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) declared QAnon has no place in the party:

And a Trump campaign spokesman promptly admonished him:

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has said he would seat Greene on committees: McCarthy ignored pleas from his members to wade into the primary to try to stop Greene. 

  • Her most certain win in November, the district is historically heavily Republican, would also come just as Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) leaves the Capitol. King was stripped of his committee assignments after years of complaints after he wondered during an interview why white nationalism and white supremacy had become “offensive.”

Our colleagues found a handful of retiring GOP members who were willing to be quoted about Greene: But this quote tells you pretty much everything. “We’re going to look like hypocrites,” one senior House Republican told them of the acceptance of her, who spoke on the condition of anonymity out of fear of retribution from party leaders.

The policies

RELIEF PLAN TALKS ARE BARELY EVEN “TALKS” NOW: “A new attempt to restart economic relief negotiations between the White House and Democrats ended just minutes after it began with [Trump] appearing to cast doubt on the whole process by announcing a deal is ‘not going to happen,’” Erica Werner and Jeff Stein report.

… But it plays on T.V.: “The state of Washington gridlock came into full display during a 15-minute window Tuesday afternoon,” Paul Kane writes of dueling hits when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was ready to appear on Fox News followed shortly thereafter by Speaker Nancy Pelosi on CNN.

  • During this, the two leaders were briefly on opposite sides of the Russell Rotunda: That’s as close as anyone has come to a bipartisan discussion since negotiations formally broke down Friday, Paul writes.

Viral

OH, THE PLACES THEY'LL GO: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) will speak at next week's Democratic National Convention. But she'll reportedly only have a minute. As she reminded her followers of the power 60 seconds can hold, a familiar voice reminded her that she's ready.