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House Committee Opens Investigation into Postmaster General for Alleged Campaign Finance Violations

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  • The head of the House Oversight Committee announced an investigation into Postmaster General Louis DeJoy over alleged campaign finance violations and whether or not he lied to Congress under oath concerning the matter.
  • The investigation comes after The Washington Post reported that numerous employees of DeJoy’s former business, New Breed Logistics, said DeJoy pressured them into making political donations to Republican campaigns and reimbursed them with bonuses, which is illegal.
  • Campaign finance records show that many employees had never donated before they worked for DeJoy and stopped donating after his company was acquired in 2014.
  • Multiple people also said that the donations allowed DeJoy and his wife to rise in the ranks of the GOP, which eventually lead to him becoming Postmaster General.

Investigation

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Ny.) announced Monday that the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, which she chairs, is launching an investigation into Postmaster General Louis DeJoy following reports that he pressured former employees into donating to his preferred Republican candidates and reimbursed them with bonuses.

The allegations were first published by The Washington Post on Sunday, which reported that five employees of DeJoy’s former business, New Breed Logistics, said that he and his aides urged them to “write checks and attend fundraisers” at his mansion in North Carolina, where “events for Republicans running for the White House and Congress routinely fetched $100,000 or more apiece.”

That practice on its own is not illegal, but two other employees “familiar with New Breed’s financial and payroll systems” also told The Post that DeJoy “would instruct that bonus payments to staffers be boosted to help defray the cost of their contributions, an arrangement that would be unlawful.”

One of the employees who spoke to The Post was David Young, the company’s longtime director of human resources, who reportedly had access to payroll records at New Breed from the late 1990s to 2013.

“Louis was a national fundraiser for the Republican Party,” Young said. “He asked employees for money. We gave him the money, and then he reciprocated by giving us big bonuses. When we got our bonuses, let’s just say they were bigger, they exceeded expectations — and that covered the tax and everything else.”

Several employees also told the outlet that New Breed “often distributed large bonuses of five figures or higher.”

Alleged Pressure

Young additionally told The Post that no employees were “ever forced to or lost a job because they didn’t,” but if they did contribute, “their raises and their bonuses were bumped up to accommodate that.”

To that point, some employees told The Post that they were happy to make the donations, like Ted Le Jeune, a New Breed project manager.

“I was of the same political orientation, so it was not coerced in any way and there was no quid pro quo,” he said.

However, according to the report, other employees “said they felt little choice, saying DeJoy had a heavy-handed demeanor and a reputation for angering easily.” 

One plant manager named Steve Moore told the outlet that he felt pressured to contribute to the campaign of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani — who was running for president at the time — just a few months after he started a job New Breed. 

According to Moore, his manager told him that making a contribution was “highly recommended,” even if he did not attend the event DeJoy was hosting for Giuliani.

“I took that to mean my job is on the line here, or things won’t go smooth for me here at New Breed if I didn’t contribute,” he said. “I didn’t really agree with what was going on.” 

Other employees also told The Post that DeJoy and his aides “made clear that he wanted employees to support his endeavors — through emails inviting employees to fundraisers, follow-up calls and visits to staffers’ desks.”

DeJoy’s GOP Rise

Regardless of whether or not there was pressure, DeJoy’s alleged efforts were highly effective. In an analysis of federal and state campaign finance records, The Post found “a pattern of extensive donations by New Breed employees to Republican candidates, with the same amount often given by multiple people on the same day.”

From 2000 and 2014, 124 individuals who worked for the company collectively gave more than $1 million to federal and state Republican candidates. During the same period, just nine employees gave a combined $700 to Democratic candidates.

That timeline is relevant for a few reasons. First of all, as The Post explains, many of the people who made those contributions had not donated to political campaigns before joining New Breed, and many have not made any more contributions since leaving the company.

The outlet also noted that the donations slowed significantly after New Breed was acquired by the Connecticut-based company XPO Logistics in 2014.

In fact, according to campaign finance records, a year after the sale: “several New Breed employees who had stayed on with XPO were giving significantly smaller political contributions and many stopped making them altogether.”

But that is not the only reason this timeline of events is significant. Many people have also indicated that those fundraising efforts allowed DeJoy and his wife to cement their status and rise in the ranks of the Republican Party.

“Multiple New Breed employees said DeJoy’s ascent in Republican politics was powered in part by his ability to multiply his fundraising through his company, describing him as a chief executive who was single-minded in his focus on increasing his influence in the GOP,” The Post reported, adding that several employees said, “DeJoy reveled in the access his fundraising afforded him.”

As DeJoy’s efforts continued, his wife, Alonda Wos, began receiving political appointments, first as an ambassador to Estonia in 2004 under President George W. Bush, and then as head of North Carolina’s health and human services agency in 2013.

When President Donald Trump took office, Wos was appointed to serve on the president’s commission on White House fellowships in 2017. Earlier this year, Trump also nominated her to be ambassador to Canada.

While testifying before a House Oversight panel last month, DeJoy was explicitly asked if he had repaid executives for contributions to Trump’s campaign, and he forcefully denied doing so.

“That’s an outrageous claim, sir, and I resent it,” he said. “The answer is no.”

Response

That question was specifically related to Trump, and not the new allegations that have surfaced. As noted earlier, DeJoy’s tenure as the CEO of New Breed ended with its acquisition in 2014 — before Trump announced he was running for president.

However, in her statement announcing the investigation, Rep. Maloney said that DeJoy faces “criminal exposure” not only if the allegations that he gave bonuses to people who made political donations turn out to be true, “but also for lying to our committee under oath.” 

Maloney also urged the Board of Governors of the U.S. Postal Service to immediately suspend DeJoy, who she claimed “they never should have hired in the first place.”

Even if he did not perjury himself, some Democrats have argued that these allegations just further contribute to a questionable narrative about DeJoy and his leadership as Postmaster General.

Many Democrats and other critics have accused DeJoy — who personally donated over $1.1 million to Trump’s reelection campaign — of being a Trump crony. He’s been accused of actively trying to prevent the postal service from working effectively and trying to create distrust in the system before the election to line up with Trump’s attacks on both USPS and mail-in voting.

DeJoy has denied those claims, and in a statement to The Post, his personal spokesman, Monty Hagler, said that DeJoy “was never notified by the New Breed employees referenced by the Washington Post of any pressure they might have felt to make a political contribution, and he regrets if any employee felt uncomfortable for any reason.”

Hagler also said that DeJoy “sought and received legal advice” to ensure that he and his employees “complied with any and all laws.”

According to The Post, despite being repeatedly asked, Hagler “did not directly address the assertions that DeJoy reimbursed workers for making contributions.” 

Very notably, when asked during a press conference Monday if he supported the investigation into DeJoy, Trump said, “Sure, sure, let the investigations go.” When asked if he would support DeJoy’s removal if he is found to have committed wrongdoing, Trump responded, “sure.”

Federal violations of the nature DeJoy is being accused of have a five-year statute of limitations, but there is no statute of limitations in North Carolina for felonies, including for campaign finance violations. 

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Forbes) (CNN)

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Trump Refuses to Denounce White Supremacy During Debate

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  • When asked in Tuesday’s presidential debate if he would agree to denounce white supremacist groups and tell them to stand down, President Trump said he would, but when asked to explicitly say the words, he addressed only the far-right group the Proud Boys, and told them to “stand back and stand by.” 
  • Many people criticized Trump for not condemning white supremacist groups, others also slammed him for seeming to issue a call to arms for the Proud Boys.
  • Organizations that track online extremism said the group embraced the “stand back and stand by” quote as a slogan, and some members took to social media sites to praise Trump’s remarks.
  • Trump also attempted to shift the focus to unrest caused by left-wing groups and falsely claimed that they caused more violence than right-wing groups, a claim that is contrary to the evidence presented by high-level members of his own administration. 

Trump Asked to Denounce White Supremacist Groups

President Donald Trump refused to directly denounce white supremacist groups when asked to do so in the contentious first presidential debate Tuesday night, sparking condemnation from critics and cheers from members of certain white nationalist-tied groups.

“Are you willing tonight to condemn white supremacists and militia groups and to say that they need to stand down and not add to the violence in a number of these cities as we saw in Kenosha and as we’ve seen in Portland?” Fox News Sunday host and debate moderator Chris Wallace asked the president.

“Sure, I’m willing to do that,” Trump responded. “I would say almost everything I see is from the left wing not from the right wing […] I’m willing to do anything. I want to see peace.”

“Well, then do it, sir,” Wallace implored.

What do you want to call them?” Trump asked. “Give me a name, give me a name, go ahead who do you want me to condemn,” 

“White supremacist and right-wing militia, proud boys,” Wallace responded, singling out the all-male white supremacist-tied group that has been known for engaging in and promoting violence.

“Proud Boys, stand back and stand by,” the president responded. “But I’ll tell you what somebody’s got to do something about Antifa and the left because this is not a right wing problem this is a left wing.”

Response

That moment and the response from the president has been described as one of the most significant moments of the night because while Trump said “sure” when asked if he would condemn white supremacist groups, when asked actually do so, he refused.

Even in telling the Proud Boys to stand down, he also told them to “stand by,” a refrain that alarmed many people who believed it sounded as though the president was signaling to members of the group to be ready for something.

“When Trump says: ‘Proud Boys – stand back and stand by’ – he is signalling that he considers them a private army waiting for his command to take to the streets if the result is not to his liking. That is very frightening,” writer Katy Brand tweeted.

“I still can’t get over the fact that Trump was told to condemn violent white supremacists, and all he could eek out was to tell the Proud Boys to ‘stand by’— effectively a call to arms,” political commentator Brian Tyler Cohen also wrote on twitter.

Many others also took aim more specifically at the president’s refusal to condemn white supremacists.

“He was given the opportunity multiple times to condemn white supremacy and he gave a wink and a nod to a racist nazi muerderous organization that is now celebrating online, that is now saying we have a go ahead,” attorney and commentator Van Jones told CNN.

However, in a separate interview with CNN, former Senator Rick Santorum seemed to defend Trump for refusing to denounce white supremacist groups.

“He was asking the president to do something he knows the president doesn’t like to do, which is say something bad about people who support him,” he said, though in a later appearance on another CNN program, he said Trump made a huge mistake by not condemning white supremacy.

As far as the official response from Trump’s team, when White House communications director Alyssa Farah was asked to clarify the president’s comments on Fox News, she said she did not think there was anything to clarify.

“He’s told them to stand back,” she said. “This president has surged federal resources when violent crime warrants it in cities. He’s leading.” 

Proud Boys Respond

According to SITE Intel Group, which tracks online extremism, the Proud Boys embraced the “stand back and stand by” quote as a slogan. Some also took to social media sites like Parler, which is known for its large pro-Trump user base, to celebrate Trump’s words.

“Trump basically said to go fuck [protesters] up! this makes me so happy,” one prominent ally wrote on the platform, seemingly in regards to Trump’s remarks about antifa.

While Trump’s comments about antifa took up less focus, it is important to note that his attempts to deflect questions about right-wing groups contained multiple falsehoods that have been contradicted by people within his own administration and the intelligence community.

Despite the president’s claims that almost all the violence he sees is from the left, earlier this month, his own FBI director, Christopher Wray, said that “racially motivated violent extremism,” most of which has come from white supremacists, composes the majority of domestic terrorism threats. 

Separately, just days after that, Acting Deputy Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Kenneth Cuccinelli said that “when white supremacists act as terrorists, more people per incident are killed.”

Additionally, DHS also pointed to white extremism as a primary threat in a domestic terrorism assessment published last year. 

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (BBC) (Business Insider)

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Trump and Biden Spar Over Voting Security at First Debate

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  • In the final round of Tuesday’s presidential debate, President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden addressed concerns over election security and voter fraud.
  • As Biden correctly noted, top officials at the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI have said that there is no evidence of widespread mail-in voter fraud.
  • Trump later claimed that mailmen in West Virginia are selling ballots. According to state officials, this is not true.
  • While Biden promised that he would not declare victory on election night, Trump did not make any such promises when asked by moderator Chris Wallace.

Election Security Concerns 

During the final leg of Tuesday night’s presidential debate, President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden sparred over the topic of election security in the face of widespread mail-in voting. 

Here are some fact-checked claims made by both candidates.

Biden: No Evidence That Mail-In Voting Leads to Cheating

At the start of the sixth and final round of the debate, Biden said of Trump: “His own Homeland Security director, and as well as the FBI director, says that there is no evidence at all that mail-in ballots are a source of being manipulated and cheating.”

“They said that. The fact is that there are going to be millions of people because of COVID that are going to be voting by mail-in ballots like he does, by the way.” 

While Biden does seem to confuse “homeland security director” with the DHS cybersecurity director, the gist of this claim is mostly true.

A few weeks ago, that director, Christopher Krebs, told CBS News that mail-in voting systems are resilient and secure because they create paper trails that can be audited.

Biden also referenced testimony given by FBI Director Christopher Wray, who last week, said that the U.S. has never experienced a large-scale mail-in voter fraud effort. Wray added that any such fraud would be a “major challenge” for foreign countries to pull off. 

Trump: Ballots Found in Wastepaper Baskets

Trump opened the round by saying that he is fine with solicited ballots but that his problem lies with states automatically sending ballots to all registered voters. He then went on to assert a number of claims. 

“They’re sending millions of ballots all over the country,” Trump said. “There’s fraud. They found them in creeks. They found some, just happened to have the name Trump, just the other day in a wastepaper basket.” 

Trump repeated that claim several more times, saying at one point, “They found ballots in a wastepaper basket three days ago, and they all had the name military ballots. There were military. They all had the name Trump on them.” 

The president is referring to a situation in Pennsylvania where nine mailed-in military ballots were found “discarded” by a local election office. Seven of those ballots are known to have been cast for Trump, while two remain sealed. 

It is fully possible that those nine ballots could have been improperly discarded, and it is also possible that the move was intentional; however, an ongoing investigation has yet to make that determination.

As The Washington Post reports, military absentee ballots also look like absentee ballot requests, so it is possible they were opened accidentally. 

It’s also possible that the ballots could have been what’s known as “naked ballots,” meaning each voters’ candidate choices would have been revealed after opening the envelope. If that is the case, those ballots would have had to have been thrown out because of a recent ruling by the state’s Supreme Court. 

Still, as of the debate, it is unproven that this incident is fraud, as Trump claimed.

Trump: Mail Carriers Are Selling Ballots

Following that, Trump claimed that mail carriers in West Virginia are selling ballots.

“Did you see what’s going on?” Trump said. “Take a look at West Virginia, mailman selling the ballots. They’re being sold.”

Plain and simple, this is not true. 

In fact, the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office has since said that it doesn’t know of any instances in which ballots were sold in the state.

The closest comparison to Trump’s remarks stem from an incident that occurred earlier this year where a mailman pleaded guilty to election fraud after changing several absentee request forms from Democrat to Republican. 

As many have noted, this instance of fraud was quickly caught. Additionally, the mailman’s actions never resulted in any altered ballots. 

Wallace: Will You Pledge Not to Declare Immediate Victory?

Debate moderator Chris Wallace ended Tuesday’s debate by asking both candidates if they would urge their supporters to stay calm and not engage in civil unrest in the days following the election. 

That’s because, as Wallace pointed out, the results of the election likely won’t be known for days or even maybe weeks after Nov. 3rd, due to the high volume of mail-in ballots.

“And will you pledge tonight that you will not declare victory until the election has been independently certified?” Wallace asked.

“I’m urging my supporters to go in to the polls and watch very carefully, because that’s what has to happen,” Trump responded. “I am urging them to do it.

“If it’s a fair election, I am 100% on board. But if I see tens of thousands of ballots being manipulated, I can’t go along with that. And I’ll tell you why—”

What does that mean, not go along?” Wallace asked. “Does that mean you’re going to tell your people — to take to the streets?”

“I’ll tell you what it means,” Trump said. “It means you have a fraudulent election. You’re sending out 80 million ballots… These people are not equipped to handle it.” 

Biden, however, responded with a much more concrete answer to Wallace’s question.

“Yes,” Biden said. “And here’s the deal. We count the ballots, as you pointed out. Some of these ballots in some states can’t even be opened until election day. And if there’s thousands of ballots, it’s going to take time to do it.”

See what others are saying: (Forbes) (ABC News) (The Washington Post)

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Cambridge Analytica Passed Voter Suppression Information Over to the 2016 Trump Campaign, New Report Claims

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  • A new report claims Donald Trump’s campaign disproportionately targeted Black voters in the 2016 presidential election in an attempt to dissuade them from voting.
  • According to Channel 4, Cambridge Analytica compiled that information and passed it to the Trump campaign as part of a “Deterrence” category.
  • While this practice is legal, through the use of Facebook ads, it also potentially targeted 3.5 million Black voters in many states that were ultimately decided in tight races. 
  • Trump’s re-election campaign has denied these reports, but according to Channel 4, the 2016 campaign’s chief scientist explicitly said the “Deterrence” category contained people that the campaign “hope don’t show up to vote.”

Cambridge Analytica Database

A new report claims Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign received and used data that disproportionately targeted Black voters in an attempt to discourage them from voting in the last presidential election.

The report, published by U.K. outlet Channel 4 News, alleges that the Trump campaign received a database on 200 million American voters from the now-defunct firm Cambridge Analytica. That firm attracted international scrutiny after it was found to have harvested millions of Facebook users’ personal data without their consent. 

In 2016, the Trump Campaign pumped $5.9 million into Cambridge Analytica. 

As The Washington Post puts it, this database “could add detail to allegations about Cambridge Analytica’s role in the campaign, particularly in efforts to harness Facebook’s powerful ad technologies to dissuade Black voters from supporting Hillary Clinton.”

According to Channel 4, which claims to have obtained the database made by Cambridge Analytica, the list of voters covers 16 key battleground states. Among those states, voters were then separated into eight different categories.

For example, likely Democratic voters were listed as either “Core Clinton,” “Disengaged Clinton,” or “Deterrence.” Channel 4 quoted the chief data scientist of Trump’s 2016 campaign as explicitly saying the “Deterrence” category contained people that the campaign “hope don’t show up to vote.”

Notably, more than half the people listed in that category were either Black, Asian, or Latino.

On top of that, while Black voters only make up about 5.4% of the voting population in Wisconsin, the database marked 17% of Black voters in the state for “Deterrence.” 

Likewise, in Michigan, Black voters accounted for 15% of the voting population in 2016; however, the database marked 33% of Black voters in the state for “Deterrence.”

Both races were extremely tight. In fact, Trump won Michigan by just 11,000 votes. At the same time, Black voter turnout in the state dropped by more than 12%.

Ties to the Trump Campaign

Channel 4 has not revealed how it obtained this database, but it does claim that Cambridge Analytica worked “hand in glove with a team from the Republican National Committee.”

Following the report, Tim Murtaugh, a spokesman for Trump’s reelection campaign, dismissed it as “fake news,” saying that Trump’s record gave him a “relationship of trust with African American voters.”

Paris Dennard, the RNC’s senior communications adviser for Black media affairs, affirmed that the data obtained by Channel 4 “is not our data.”

Matt Braynard, the Trump data director for the 2016 campaign, said his team didn’t use those categorizations. Instead, he said they relied on material from the party and another firm, L2 political. 

“Deterrence doesn’t mean suppression and it doesn’t mean deterrence from voting,” Braynard specified. “It just means deterrence from voting for Hillary Clinton.”

Many of the testimonies seem to conflict with one another. While Murtaugh has claimed the story is “fake news,” Braynard has seemingly admitted that this data is at least real. In addition to that, Braynard said the category wasn’t meant to be a full deterrence from voting, but Channel 4’s quote from the Trump data scientist indicates the direct opposite.

According to The Washington Post, Brittany Kaiser, Cambridge Analytica’s former director of business development, said Channel 4’s report is consistent with “her understanding of how Cambridge Analytica and Republicans targeted Black voters in 2016.”

Kaiser then provided The Post with an internal company document from 2016 which described a similar classification strategy for Democrats, including a category labelled “Deterrent.” 

Was This Legal?

The tactics described in the Channel 4 report are legal.

David Carroll, a professor at the Parsons School of Design in New York, called the database “a diabolically effective campaign tactic,” but added in a statement to The Post, “They’re just using free speech, even if it is misleading.”

Despite the tactic by Cambridge Analytica being legal, Channel 4 criticized Facebook for its role in airing ads potentially aimed at dissuading voters. Of particular note, during the 2016 Election, Facebook also employed “dark posts,” or ads that vanish from feeds after a campaign stops paying for them. 

Those ads make it difficult to go back and track how campaigns targeted specific groups, and that has become a major point of contention because the Trump Campaign pumped $44 million in such types of ads in 2016. 

Channel 4 was also critical of Facebook because it was seemingly the original source of information used to help create this database; however, Facebook has maintained that its information was improperly obtained and that Cambridge Analytica was in violation of its policies.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Forbes) (USA Today)

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