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The Situation With USPS Mailboxes and Sorting Machines, Explained

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  • Major changes at the U.S. Postal Service have increased concerns about both the future of the agency and its ability to collect mail-in ballots in time for the November election.
  • Those changes have included the removal of several drop boxes and sorting machines; however, after much scrutiny this weekend, the USPS said it would stop removing mail boxes until after the election.
  • Similarly, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows has said that “no sorting machines” will be “going offline between now and the election.” It is unclear if his comment was an attempt to deny reports of sorting machines that are already said to have been removed.
  • On Sunday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that she was calling the House back to Washington D.C. to vote on a bill that would reverse the post office’s recent overhauls.

Sorting Machines and Mail Boxes Removed

The United States Postal Service has become a point of political focus in the lead-up to the 2020 elections. Over the last few days, concerns around the USPS have spiked even more following reports that the agency was removing mail-sorting machines and mailboxes from rotation.

According to multiple outlets, a plan outlined by Postmaster Louis DeJoy last month included decommissioning 10% of the postal service’s costly mail sorting machines. In raw numbers, that means decommissioning 671 of those machines, which are scattered across the country.

Widespread reporting of this plan surfaced on Thursday, following an interview with President Donald Trump on Fox News. In that interview, Trump said that he wants to deny funding to the USPS ahead of the elections so that the postal system won’t be able to handle an influx of mail-in ballots in November. 

Notably, that’s been viewed by many as a blatant attempt to suppress mail-in voting, something that Trump has repeatedly claimed will lead to widespread fraud — even though there is no hard evidence to back up this claim. 

Even before these reports, there were already fears that mail-in ballots could arrive at election offices late. For years, the USPS has been stressed. It’s understaffed. It’s not funded by tax dollars. It’s losing money.

As part of a massive overhaul of the agency, DeJoy also instructed it to cut overtime and to send out mail trucks on time even if all the mail for that run hasn’t been sorted yet. 

Recently, the postal service warned 46 states and Washington D.C that it can’t guarantee all mail-in ballots will arrive in time to be counted. If that happens, under the current system of most states, those ballots would be invalid — even if a person mailed their ballot on time. 

Thus, many fear the removal of sorting machines could slow down and jeopardize that process even more. 

But it’s not just sorting machines. Other reports from people online and even government officials appear to show photos of the postal service’s iconic blue mailboxes either being taken away or locked up. 

Alongside both developments, there have been widespread reports of major delays in mail being delivered.

Why Are These Machines Being Removed?

When reports of these units being removed first surfaced, the public did not seem to have a concrete answer as to why this was happening. Reportedly, the USPS had not announced any new policy to local union officials. The agency also didn’t explain its reasoning or say what was going to happen to those machines and mailboxes.

Additionally, it was only learned that DeJoy planned to decommission 671 sorting machines after multiple outlets — such as The Washington Post, NBC, and CNN — obtained internal documents reportedly stating such. 

The fact that sorting machines are being either removed, replaced, or modified is nothing new. That much happens all of the time; however, recent removals appear to be much more widespread than normal practices. 

“Look at it this way,” one USPS employee at a Buffalo, New York, distribution center — which was set to lose six of its 21 machines — told VICE. Your local grocery store was forced to cut 1/3 of its cash-out lines, but management expected the same productivity, quality, and speed for the customer. It’s just never going to happen.”

Still, traditional mail has been declining for years, and many distribution centers are now finding themselves having to sort through less mail than ever before. Because of that, it’s possible the USPS might not need as many of those machines or mailboxes. In fact, once the USPS publicly responded on the matter, that soon became their explanation. 

The Postal Service routinely moves equipment around its network as necessary to match changing mail and package volumes,”  a USPS spokesperson said. “Package volume is up, but mail volume continues to decline. Adapting our processing infrastructure to the current volumes will ensure more efficient, cost effective operations, and better service for our customers.”

Alongside that, on Friday, a USPS official told KSHB in Kansas City that several mail-processing machines in the area had been removed earlier in the summer “for efficiency and lower mail volume” related to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In a similar statement regarding mailboxes, a spokesperson explained that units are removed if they “consistently receive very small amounts of mail for months on end,” saying that having carriers drive to such locations drives up costs. 

Regarding why other mailboxes have been spotted with locks, it appears that this could be a semi-routine way to stop after-hours theft, though it’s still unclear if this is actually the case. It’s also unclear if the practice has become more widespread recently or if this is mainly a case of people now noticing a routine occurrence.

USPS confirmed Friday that it will stop removing mailboxes until after the election. 

Still, it does appear that changes to mailboxes and sorting machines may be — along with other changes — what has caused recent slowdowns and delays in mail delivery.

In a letter to employees, DeJoy reportedly said that the changes are simply “unintended consequences” and that his plan for the agency “will increase our performance for the election and upcoming peak season and maintain the high level of public trust we have earned for dedication and commitment to our customers throughout our history.”

Democrats, Celebs, and Others Criticize Recent Changes with USPS

A lot of people haven’t bought that explanation. Instead, they’ve argued that these changes are likely to hurt mail-in voting.

“We are 80 days out until the next election,” Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) said. “I don’t think there’s any question that this is all related to the upcoming election. People in our community right now ought to begin writing letters and screaming and saying this is a misplaced political move.”

On Friday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-Ny.) issued a scathing statement that accused Trump of manipulating “the operations of the Post Office to deny eligible voters the ballot in pursuit of his own re-election.”

“The President’s own words confirm: he needs to cheat to win,” the joint statement says.

The idea of Trump needing to “cheat to win” is one that has grown increasingly popular over the last few weeks, with many accusing the president of suppressing mail-in voting efforts in an attempt to win the election. Though statistics do not show any partisan lean, Trump has repeatedly claimed that widespread mail-in voting will secure the White House for Democrats. 

“Trump’s calculated dismantling of USPS proves one thing clearly: He is WELL AWARE that we do not want him as our president,” singer Taylor Swift said Saturday. “He’s chosen to blatantly cheat and put millions of Americans’ lives at risk in an effort to hold on to power.”

“Donald Trump’s ineffective leadership gravely worsened the crisis that we are in and he is now taking advantage of it to subvert and destroy our right to vote and vote safely,” she added. “Request a ballot early. Vote early.” 

Alongside big-name responses, many protested this weekend outside of DeJoy’s house in D.C., as well as outside of his North Carolina mansion. Many held signs reading, “Deliver de Mail, Depose DeJoy.”

Will Trump Approve USPS Funding?

In response to the criticism against him, over the weekend, Trump responded by working to redirect the blame back to Democrats. 

On Friday, Trump backpedalled on his previous statement that he’d block billions of dollars of funding from going to the USPS as part of the next coronavirus relief package. Instead, he said he would approve that funding, but only if Democrats give Republicans what they want.

On Saturday, Trump then continued his attack on the USPS by calling the agency a catastrophe, defending DeJoy, and saying, “Obviously, if you’re going to do these millions of ballots out of nowhere, he’s going to obviously need funding. But the Democrats aren’t willing to provide other things, and therefore, they’re not going to get the funding for that.” 

States Work to Accommodate Mail-in Voting

Even with a stalemate between Trump and Congress, many states have been busy making moves to accommodate for ballots that could reach election officials after November 3rd.

On Thursday, Pennsylvania election officials asked the state’s Supreme Court for permission to count ballots arriving up to three days after election day. 

On Sunday, New Jersey governor Phil Murphy told Fox News that his administration is working to ensure that votes are counted accurately in November. His plan would include expanding access to secure mails sites, as well as expansions to other precautions that aim to deliver mail-in ballots on time. Also included within that would be a measure to extend the deadline in which mail-in votes could be received, as long as they are postmarked by election day. 

It’s also likely that a coalition of states’ will take action regarding concerns surrounding the USPS. Reportedly, the attorneys general for states like Virginia, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Washington, and North Carolina are expected to launch a lawsuit against the Trump Administration later this week.

In other states, however, those rules might not actually be able to be changed. Last month, the Michigan appeals court denied a request that would have allowed mail-in ballots to be counted even after polls close on election day. The state’s Supreme Court later refused to hear that case when the decision was appealed again.

Pelosi Calls House Back Early

On a federal level, Sunday, Pelosi announced she was calling the House of Representatives back from its August recess early to address concerns that the USPS is being used to undermine the November elections.

While up to this point, the debate in Congress has been centered around funding, the House is now expected to vote on a bill that wouldn’t center around that, but rather, organizational issues at the USPS.

In her announcement, Pelosi said that bill would prohibit “the Postal Service from implementing any changes to operations or level of service it had in place on January 1, 2020.”

If there was any room for debate over whether or not Pelosi was specifically targeting DeJoy’s recently outlined overhaul, she didn’t leave that question open-ended. In fact, she even called him a “complicit crony” of Trump in that announcement.

Pelosi also said that DeJoy has pushed “sweeping new operational changes that degrade postal service, delay the mail, and… threaten to deny the ability of eligible Americans to cast their votes through the mail in the upcoming elections in a timely fashion.”

Mark Meadows Interview

Also on Sunday, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told CNN’s Jake Tapper that USPS sorting machines won’t be taken offline between now and Election Day.

However, Meadow’s response in that interview was delivered in such a roundabout way that multiple news outlets have all reported the information differently. In fact, even Tapper didn’t seem to fully understand what Meadows meant.

“There’s no sorting machines that are going offline between now and the election,” Meadows said. “That’s something that my Democrat friends are trying to do to stoke fear out there. That’s not happening.” 

“Are you saying that sorting machines have not been taken offline and removed?” Tapper asked in response. “Are you asserting that? That that did not happen?”

“I’m saying that sorting machines between now and the election will not be taken offline,” Meadows said. “Listen, I had postal under my committee—”

“They’re the ones that have been taken offline in the last couple of months?” Tapper repeated.

Over the course of the next few minutes, Tapper continued to ask Meadows to clarify his statement. 

“That’s not this postmaster general that did that,” Meadows eventually said. “That was the previous postmaster general under Obama.”

“I get that,” Tapper said. “Why were these sorting machines taken offline? Why were they taken offline and why is the postmaster general imposing these new rules?”

“Get your producer to share where exactly those sorting machines were taken offline,” Meadows said. “Let him whisper in your ear, because what I’m telling you is you’re picking up on a narrative that’s not based on facts.” 

Since this interview, many have wondered if Meadows was denying that sorting machines have recently been decommissioned or if he was talking about from that moment specifically until election day. Others wonder if he was trying to blame former President Obama for DeJoy’s new policy.

According to reports, postal workers have said that the USPS started removing those machines back in June. That’s the same month DeJoy was appointed postmaster general. 

It’s also been reported that the postal service inspector general is reviewing DeJoy’s policy changes and potential ethics conflicts. 

DeJoy is slated to appear before the House Oversight Committee on September 17, although there have been concerns that this could come too late and would be ineffective at forcing him to reverse the changes.

Because of that, on Sunday, the Oversight Committee announced that it plans to hold an emergency hearing on mail-in voting next week. It’s now invited DeJoy to testify early.

See what others are saying: (CNN) (The Washington Post) (The New York Times)

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Josh Hawley Claims Ethics Complaint Against Him Is “Cancel Culture”

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  • Seven Democratic Senators filed an ethics complaint against Republican Senators Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz last week over their efforts in leading objections to the certification of the presidential election.
  • The group urged the Ethics Committee to launch an investigation into whether Cruz and Hawley’s actions inspired violence or if there were any connections between the two Senators, their staffers, and the insurrectionists.
  • Hawley filed a counter-complaint against the seven Democrats Monday, arguing that they were engaging in cancel culture. 
  • “Your baseless allegations are in that sense unfortunately typical of today’s leftwing cancel culture, a culture that tramples on the democratic traditions that left and right once defended together,” he wrote.

Ethics Committee Complaints

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) filed a counter-complaint with the Senate Ethics Committee Monday alleging that a group of Democratic senators were engaging in “cancel culture” by calling for a recent investigation into his conduct.

Last week, seven Democratic senators, lead by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), filed an ethics complaint against Hawley and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tx.) for leading the objection to the certification of the presidential election

In the complaint, the members accused Hawley and Cruz of legitimizing the false claims that prompted the insurrection in the first place and then continuing to “amplify the claims of fraud that they likely knew to be baseless and that had led to violence earlier that day,” by still voting to object.

The letter also noted that both Cruz and Hawley touted their plan to object to the certification as a way to collect more campaign donations. It argued that they continued to do so while the Capitol was literally under siege and even after the insurrection. 

As a result, the seven Democrats urged the Ethics Committee to investigate whether there was any coordination between Hawley, Cruz, or their staffers and the insurrectionists, if they knew about the plans for the Jan. 6 rally, or if they took donations from people and organizations involved.

They also implored the committee to look into whether the actions of the two Senators actions inspired violence or “otherwise engaged in criminal conduct, or unethical or improper behavior.” If any evidence is found, the Democrats recommended the committee take “strong disciplinary action, including up to expulsion or censure.”

Hawley Speaks Out

In his counter-complaint, Hawley accused the Democrats of trampling on free speech in an attempt to “cancel” him.

“This line of thinking is, however, sadly consistent with the new woke-mob mentality that you should cancel anyone who disagrees with your views,” he wrote. “Your baseless allegations are in that sense unfortunately typical of today’s leftwing cancel culture, a culture that tramples on the democratic traditions that left and right once defended together.”

Hawley also echoed that sentiment in a cover essay published by The New York Post on Monday, where claimed he has been “canceled” and “muzzled” over his attempts to stop the Democratic election of President Joe Biden from being certified.

Both the letter and the article attracted significant backlash online and in the media. In a particularly scathing critique, CNN Tonight host Don Lemon condemned Hawley for claiming he was being censored.

“No one has muzzled Josh Hawley. What happened to Josh Hawley isn’t cancel culture. It’s called consequences,” Lemon said. “That’s how the First Amendment works. Say whatever you want, but you gotta pay the price if you say something stupid, or you do something stupid or treasonous, or if you try to overturn a duly elected president, right?”

“Don’t fall for this, people,” he continued. “Think about the actions in the Capitol. Think about what happened, think about the people who died, think about the cops who were beaten by people. Think about all that.”

See what others are saying: (Politico) (Vox) (CNN)

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Dominion Files $1.3 Billion Defamation Suit Against Rudy Giuliani

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  • Dominion Voting Systems filed a defamation lawsuit against Rudy Giuliani seeking $1.3 billion in damages for false claims he made about the company, including that the manufacturer led an effort to flip votes from Donald Trump to Joe Biden.
  • The lawsuit alleges Giuliani, the former president’s personal lawyer, spread the disinformation in large part to enrich himself through legal fees and his podcast.
  • It also links his false claims about Dominion to the Capitol insurrection, noting that he mentioned the company while speaking at a rally before the attack and on social media numerous times during.
  • This is the second suit Dominion has filed against a Trump campaign lawyer, and an attorney for the company said it might bring similar cases against pro-Trump media outlets or Trump himself.

Dominion Sues Giuliani

Dominion Voting Systems filed a defamation lawsuit against Rudy Giuliani, former President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, seeking $1.3 billion in damages for false claims he made about the company.

Dominion, which is one of the largest voting machine manufacturers in the U.S., became the main target for widespread election fraud conspiracies spread by Giuliani and other Trump allies. Those individuals falsely claimed with no evidence that Dominion machines, widely used in key battleground states, were flipping votes from Trump to President Joe Biden.

Now, the company claims that Giuliani and his allies “manufactured and disseminated the Big Lie, which foreseeably went viral and deceived millions of people into believing that Dominion had stolen their votes and fixed the election.”

The lawsuit alleges that he did this in large part to enrich himself through legal fees and his podcast. It notes that Trump’s top lawyer “reportedly demanded $20,000 per day” for his legal services to the president, and arguing that he “cashed in by hosting a podcast where he exploited election falsehoods to market gold coins, supplements, cigars and protection from ‘cyberthieves.’”

The 107-page suit also specifically outlines more than 50 statements Giuliani made on Twitter, his podcast, to the conservative media, and during legislative hearings. Notably, the company points out that he never mentioned Dominion in court where he could face legal ramifications because he knew what he was claiming was false.

Despite that, Giuliani continued to push the false narrative, even after Dominion sent him a letter in December warning they were going to take legal action against him. 

The lawsuit also links Giuliani’s false claims about Dominion to the Capitol insurrection, noting that he mentioned the company while speaking at the rally before the attack and on social media numerous times during.

According to reports, even after the insurrection, he has still continued to spread those falsities as recently as last week. 

“Dominion’s founder and employees have been harassed and have received death threats, and Dominion has suffered unprecedented and irreparable harm,” the court document states.

Other Defamation Cases

The case against Giuliani is not the first defamation suit Dominion has brought against Trump allies in recent weeks. 

Earlier this month, the company filed a similar claim against former Trump campaign lawyer Sidney Powell where it also sought $1.3 billion in damages over her false assertions that Dominion was part of a world-wide communist plot to rig the election.

Separately, one of Dominion’s top executives has also filed lawsuits against Giuliani, the Trump campaign, and several pro-Trump media outlets after he was forced into hiding due to conspiracies that he masterminded the plot to steal the election.

These cases could just be the start. According to NPR, an attorney for Dominion said it was possible that the company would file additional suits against pro-Trump media outlets — such as Fox News — and even potentially Trump himself.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (Axios)

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House To Send Impeachment Article Monday, Starting Impeachment Trial Process

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  • Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the House will send the impeachment article against former President Donald Trump to the Senate on Monday, triggering the start of the impeachment trial process.
  • The news comes one day after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell requested that the trial be delayed until mid-February so that Trump’s legal team could have two weeks to prepare.
  • The senators could still come to their own agreement to delay the start of oral arguments and give Trump’s team more time to file pretrial briefs. 
  • Some Democrats have signaled support for this move because it would give them extra time to confirm President Joe Biden’s nominations before the trial starts.

Pelosi To Send Impeachment Article

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said Wednesday that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) will send the impeachment article against former President Donald Trump to the Senate on Monday.

The move will officially trigger the start of the impeachment trial process. The announcement comes one day after Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) requested that the trial be delayed until mid-February so that Trump’s legal team could have two weeks to prepare.

Despite Pelosi’s decision, the senators still could come to their own agreement to start the ceremonial proceedings but delay the start of oral arguments and give Trump’s team more time to file pretrial briefs.

In fact, Democrats, who have been pushing for a schedule that would allow them to still confirm President Joe Biden’s nominees before the trial proceedings start each day, have signaled that they might not oppose a delay because it would give them extra time for confirmations.

During his announcement this morning, Schumer indicated that the details were still being hashed out.

“I’ve been speaking to the Republican leader about the timing and duration of the trial,” he said. “But make no mistake a trial will be held in the United States Senate and there will be a vote on whether to convict the president.” 

McConnell, for his part, responded by reiterating that his party will continue to press for Trump’s team to be given enough time.

“This impeachment began with an unprecedentedly fast and minimal process over in the House,” he said. “Senate Republicans strongly believe we need a full and fair process where the former president can mount a defense.”

While the leaders may not have worked out the particulars yet, according to reports, both parties have already agreed that this trial will be shorter than Trump’s first impeachment, which lasted three weeks.

Implications for Power-Sharing Deal

The new impeachment trial deadline could also speed up the currently stalled negotiations between Schumer and McConnell regarding how power will be shared in a Senate with equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats.

Democrats effectively control the Senate because Vice President Kamala Harris will be the deciding vote, but she cannot always be there to resolve every dispute.

As a result, McConnell and Schumer have been working to come up with a power-sharing deal for day to day operations, similar to one that was struck in 2001 the last time the Senate was split 50-50. However, those negotiations have hit a roadblock: the legislative filibuster.

The filibuster is the long-standing Senate rule that requires a supermajority of at least 60 senators to vote to end debate on a given piece of legislation before moving to a full floor vote. Technically, all 50 Democrats and Vice President Harris could agree to change the rule to just require a simple majority to legislation advance, or what’s known as the “nuclear option.”

That move, in effect, would allow them to get through controversial legislation without any bipartisan support, as long as every Democrat stays within party lines. Many more progressive Democrats have pushed for this move, arguing that the filibuster stands in the way of many of their and Biden’s top priorities.

Given this possibility, McConnell has demanded that Democrats agree to protect the filibuster and promise not to pursue the nuclear option as part of the power-sharing deal. 

But top Democrats have rejected that demand, with many arguing that having the threat of filibuster is necessary to get Republicans to compromise.

In other words: if Republicans fear that Democrats will “go nuclear,” they will be more likely to agree to certain bills and measures to avoid that.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Politico) (The Wall Street Journal)

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