THE QUIET PART OUT LOUD?: President Trump's public admission that he is holding up funding to the U.S. Postal Service to make it harder to vote by mail might complicate his reelection effort's intensifying legal fight against mail voting in battleground states.
Two tracks: The Republican National Committee, Trump campaign and GOP groups continue to file lawsuits around the country seeking to curtail or invalidate mail-in voting in the 2020 election, alleging some practices could invite fraud. The president, who has insisted for months without evidence that the integrity of the vote will be compromised, finally made his intention explicit: That he's actively blocking election aid and an emergency bailout for USPS because he wants to restrict how many Americans can vote by mail, Amy Gardner, Josh Dawsey and Paul Kane report.
- “With nearly 180 million Americans eligible to vote by mail, the president’s actions could usher in widespread delays, long lines and voter disenfranchisement this fall, voting rights advocates said.”
The remarks could also come to haunt Republicans if they seek to challenge results not in Trump's favor. From our colleagues: “As Trump has lagged in the polls behind [Joe] Biden, the president and his allies have ramped up their rhetoric questioning the integrity of the vote and intensified their actions in the courts, revealing a far-reaching strategy to restrict mail voting and challenge the results if he loses,” they write.
- More: “[T]he RNC and Trump campaign advisers are now mapping out their post-election strategy, including how to challenge mail ballots without postmarks, as they anticipate weeks-long legal fights in an array of states, according to people familiar with the plans, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal discussions.”
- “The campaign plans to have lawyers ready to mobilize in every state and expects legal battles could play out after Election Day in such states as Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Michigan and Nevada, they said.”
- “The Republican National Committee says that it has doubled its legal budget to $20 million and is currently involved in about 40 election-related lawsuits,” the AP's Ryan J. Foley reported.
ZOOMING IN: In Pennsylvania, USPS has warned the state “that some mail ballots might not be delivered on time because the state’s deadlines are too tight for its ‘delivery standards,’ prompting election officials to ask the state Supreme Court to extend the deadlines to avoid disenfranchising voters,” the Philadelphia Inquirer's Jonathan Lai and Ellie Rushing first reported. They're asking the court to order that mail ballots be counted as long as they are received up to three days after the Nov. 3 election date.
- “The state’s reversal underscored the extent to which widespread mail delivery delays, along with Trump’s acknowledgment that his refusal to increase Postal Service funding is tied to his belief that mail voting will hurt his reelection prospects, have alarmed Democrats across the state and the country,” per Lai and Rushing.
- “Some counties set up drop boxes in the primary election so voters could hand-deliver their ballots without relying on the mail. But the Trump campaign and Republican National Committee have sued the state to block drop boxes from being used in November.”
Republicans may be facing some legal setbacks in the drop box case. The lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania alleged that Pennsylvania Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar (D) and other election officials did not properly secure or monitor drop boxes for absentee ballots used during the primary, “thus fostering an environment that encourages ballot fraud or tampering,” according to the lawsuit. Yet a federal judge just “told the Trump campaign and the Republican Party that they must produce evidence they have of vote-by-mail fraud in the state by Friday,” CNN's Katelyn Polantz reports.
- The Trump campaign and Republicans have so far refused to provide any evidence of fraud: "'The Court finds that instances of voter fraud are relevant to the claims and defenses in this case,' District Judge J. Nicholas Ranjan wrote on Thursday, telling Republicans that they need to provide evidence of fraud to the Democratic Party and the Sierra Club, which are part of the lawsuit.”
- The Trump campaign “should not be permitted to raise such spectacular fraud related claims, particular in this national climate,” lawyers representing the Democrats wrote.
The Trump campaign, the RNC, and other GOP groups have also sued “two Democratic-leaning Iowa counties that are making it easy to vote by mail during the coronavirus pandemic, seeking to invalidate tens of thousands of voters' absentee ballot applications,” Foley reported yesterday.
- “At issue are absentee ballot request forms that the counties are sending to registered voters with personal information already filled in, including their names, dates of birth and voting pin numbers. Voters just have to review, sign and return the forms to get ballots in October that they can mail back or drop off, avoiding crowded polling places.”
- “The Trump campaign and GOP groups did not sue Republican-leaning Woodbury County, where the auditor sent prepopulated forms to 57,000 registered voters this month. Trump carried that county by 8,500 votes in 2016.”
MEANWHILE IN WASHINGTON: Democrats are increasingly troubled by widespread mail delivery delays they blame on controversial operational changes made by the recently-appointed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a Trump appointee and donor.
- Vice News's Aaron Gordon scooped new changes at USPS that further fueled even more outrage: “The [USPS] is removing mail sorting machines from facilities around the country without any official explanation or reason given, Motherboard has learned through interviews with postal workers and union officials,” Gordon reports. “In many cases, these are the same machines that would be tasked with sorting ballots, calling into question promises made by [DeJoy] that the USPS has ‘ample capacity’ to handle the predicted surge in mail-in ballots.”
- A Postal Service source, reacting to the news, told us: “It’ll force the mail to be worked by human hands in sorting. Guarantees to STOP productivity. On top of cutting the overtime needed to run the machines, can you imagine the [overtime] needed to do this [the] old hard way?”
Outcry also came from some Republicans: Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), breaking with Trump, indicated he supports the additional election funding. “We need to have enough money to do our best to be sure that the November elections are held safely and results are available,” he said.
- Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), facing a competitive reelection bid, sent a letter to DeJoy asking for an explanation of the cost-cutting measures. “I do disagree with the president very strongly on that issue,” Collins told reporters on Thursday in Maine after Trump made clear he opposed emergency funding, per the Kennebec Journal's Steve Collins.
Mail balloting has been historically popular among Republicans and Democrats. And polls in recent weeks show that Republicans are far more suspicious of the practice now than Democrats, much to the frustration of some of his own advisers, “who say the president is often incorrect and could discourage their own voters,” per Amy, Josh, and P.K.
Even Trump and First Lady Melania Trump vote by mail: “For the second time as a Palm Beach County voter, [Trump] has requested a vote-by-mail ballot ahead of Florida's primary election on Tuesday,” The Palm Beach Post's Hannah Morse scooped. “And the president who has just spent the past few weeks excoriating mail-in voting has less than a week to cast it.”
- “The request for himself and first lady Melania Trump came Wednesday, the Palm Beach County elections website shows. The ballot would have been picked up, not mailed to his Palm Beach private club, Mar-a-Lago, because the deadline to send out ballots has passed. Now it must travel to Washington, D.C., where the president and first lady can vote and then return before 7 p.m. Tuesday, when all mail-in ballots must be submitted.”
FROM POSTMASTERS TO PRESIDENTS: Long before he immortalized the “party of Lincoln," 24-year-old Abraham Lincoln served as Postmaster of New Salem, Ill., overseeing a route running from Springfield to Millers Ferry, according to the USPS historian.
- “If an addressee did not collect his or her mail at the Post Office, as was the custom, Lincoln delivered it personally — usually carrying the mail in his hat,” the historian wrote in a 2005 summary. For his troubles, besides the pay, which was $55.70 in 1835, Lincoln was able to send and receive personal letters for and could get one daily newspaper delivered, all free.
- Ever Honest Abe: Benjamin P. Thomas, one of Lincoln's many biographers, said Lincoln had somewhere between $16 to $18 in remaining balance when the New Salem Post Office closed. A.G. Henry, one of Lincoln's closest friends and a postmaster himself, wondered if government had forgotten the money as Lincoln brought it with him to Springfield. Sure enough, a government agent came to see Lincoln. Henry was worried that his friend, who was going through a financially difficult time, might not have the money. Telling the agent to wait, Lincoln went over to a trunk and retrieved a sock. Untying it, he poured the contents out and proceeded to count the silver and copper. The amount was exact and so were distinct coins that been originally received. Lincoln hadn't spent a cent.
Harry Truman was appointed Postmaster of Grandview, Mo., in 1914: But the future 33rd president let the position and buck stop somewhere else, the USPS summary notes.
- As Truman writes in his compiled autobiography, he was appointed road overseer and postmaster after his father died. “I let a widow woman who was helping to raise and educate her younger sisters and brothers run the office as assistant postmaster," he writes, "and take the pay which amounted to about fifty dollars a month — a lot of money in those days.”
On the Hill
REPUBLICANS START TO FRET OVER MCCARTHY: “A cluster of GOP lawmakers is starting to privately question whether [House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy] is putting loyalty to the president over the good of the conference. And there is a small group of members discussing whether someone should challenge him for minority leader if Trump is defeated Nov. 3,” Rachael Bade reports this morning.
- The list of grievances includes McCarthy's failure to stop Marjorie Taylor Greene: “Greene, a fringe House candidate in Georgia who espouses the QAnon conspiracy theory and has made numerous racist comments. Multiple Republicans implored McCarthy to help defeat her by supporting her primary opponent. But McCarthy refused, phoning the candidate in an apparent peace accord before the primary, while Trump embraced her on Twitter this week as a ‘future Republican Star.’”
But frustrations were mounting long before this week: “According to interviews with more than 10 House Republicans — all of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to be frank — some GOP lawmakers are worried that McCarthy has tied the conference too much to Trump, refusing to stand up to the president or act as a buffer to distinguish the conference from him,” our colleague writes.
- Ouch: “He does nothing but lick Trump’s boots. That’s all he cares about — so no, it’s not helpful,” one House Republican said.
Those feelings are far from unanimous. McCarthy has a lot of friends: “He also has raised $82 million for Republicans this cycle, more than the previous two GOP speakers,” our colleague writes. “He’s our best candidate recruiter, our best fundraiser and our best political strategist — all rolled into one,” McCarthy ally Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) adds.
Outside the Beltway
BIDEN CAMPAIGN LOOKS TO HARNESS HARRIS MOMENTUM: “[I]n coming weeks, the Biden campaign plans to deploy [Sen. Kamala Harris] to swing states — often virtually, but at times in person — to connect with Black voters, young activists and suburban women, groups whose support for Biden is solid but far from guaranteed. Joint television interviews are in the works over the next few weeks,” Matt Viser reports.
- The Biden campaign has raised $34 million since Harris (D-Calif.) was picked: They've also sold $1.2 million in yard signs.
The traditional barnstorming is a lot different during the pandemic: “Instead, Biden and Harris met for briefings on the coronavirus and the economy inside a ballroom at the Hotel Du Pont, an elegant and historic hotel in Wilmington, Del., where Biden announced his first Senate campaign in 1972,” our colleague writes.
- That includes the convention speeches: “Biden and Harris are both planning to give their speeches from the Chase Center in Wilmington, rather than from Milwaukee, where the convention was originally planned.”
At the White House
BASELESS CONCERNS ABOUT HARRIS'S CITIZENSHIP ECHOED BY TRUMP: “The false birther conspiracies about Harris focus on the status of her parents, immigrants from India and Jamaica, who weren’t U.S. citizens when she was born. Online speculation and far-right commentary on the matter gained traction and a Trump campaign adviser was among those circulating material questioning Harris’s legitimacy,” Anne Gearan and Colby Itkowitz report.
Just to be clear: “The questions are baseless. Harris was born in Oakland, Calif., and is, by the laws of the Constitution, a U.S. citizen,” our colleagues write.
- The president declined to refute an op-ed by a conservative lawyer on the matter: “He then added that ‘the lawyer that wrote that piece is a very highly qualified, very talented lawyer,’ making clear that he had some familiarity with the assertions made by John C. Eastman, a conservative lawyer at Chapman University.”
- The Biden campaign released a scorching statement in response: "Donald Trump was the national leader of the grotesque, racist birther movement with respect to President Obama and has sought to fuel racism and tear our nation apart on every single day of his presidency,” a Biden campaign spokesman said in an email. “So it’s unsurprising, but no less abhorrent, that as Trump makes a fool of himself straining to distract the American people from the horrific toll of his failed coronavirus response that his campaign and their allies would resort to wretched, demonstrably false lies in their pathetic desperation.”
TRUMP ANNOUNCES HISTORIC AGREEMENT: “Israel and the United Arab Emirates agreed Thursday to end decades of enmity in a historic deal announced by [Trump] that would put Israeli annexation of West Bank lands on hold as a condition of normalizing relations,” Anne Gearan and Steve Hendrix report.
- This is a major foreign policy achievement just months before the election: “Trump made a Middle East peace deal a pillar of his foreign policy early in his administration, and until Thursday there was little evidence of any progress toward that goal. While the announcement falls short of Trump’s promises, it gives him a significant step to point to on the campaign trail,” our colleagues write.
Palestinians slammed the deal: They view is as a “putative Arab ally and a crushing setback to their national aspirations,” Steve Hendrix and Kareem Fahim report.
- While Egypt and Bahrain praised it: “Other Arab governments mostly stayed silent, as signs of anger from some of the region’s citizens trickled out. In Saudi Arabia, thousands of people posted messages on Twitter condemning the UAE’s move, under the hashtag ‘Normalization is treason.’ A prominent political scientist in the UAE, also posted a reaction on Twitter: a crying emoji that tested the country’s strict rules forbidding dissent.”
In the media
WHAT ELSE YOU NEED TO KNOW:
Trump says he'll “probably” give his convention speech at the White House: "It’s a place that makes me feel good, it makes the country feel good,” Trump told the New York Post, Ebony Bowden and Steven Nelson report.
Another Republican saying the quiet part out loud?: “Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) this week said his probe of Obama-era intelligence agencies would help [Trump] win reelection, igniting fury from Democrats who say it was an explicit admission he’s using his committee to damage Joe Biden's candidacy for president,” Politico's Kyle Cheney reports.