Former President Barack Obama on Friday accused President Donald Trump of trying to "kneecap" the U.S. Postal Service ahead of the 2020 election, which is expected to include a massive surge of mail-in votes during the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump acknowledged Thursday that he's starving the USPS of money to make it harder to process tens of millions of ballots which he worries could cost him reelection.
In an interview on Fox Business Network, Trump explicitly noted two funding provisions that Democrats are seeking in a coronavirus relief package that has stalled on Capitol Hill. Without the additional money, he said, the Postal Service won’t have the resources to handle a flood of ballots from voters who are seeking to avoid polling places.
“If we don’t make a deal, that means they don’t get the money,” Trump, who votes by mail in Florida, told host Maria Bartiromo. “That means they can’t have universal mail-in voting; they just can’t have it.”
Obama called it an unprecedented effort by a president to “kneecap the postal service” to protect his reelection chances.
“What are Republicans doing where you are so scared of people voting, that you are now willing to undermine what is part of the basic infrastructure of American life?” Obama said on the Campaign HQ podcast, which is hosted by his former campaign manager David Plouffe. “I mean, it’d be the equivalent of ‘We’re not going to repair highways because people might drive to the polling places…so we’ll just let massive sinkholes in the middle of, uh, the interstate linger, because we’re worried that folks might use those roads to vote.’"
The U.S. Postal Service has warned 46 states and the District of Columbia it cannot guarantee all ballots cast by mail for the November election will arrive in time to be counted, The Washington Post reported Friday. Voters in several states also complained that some curbside mail collection boxes were being removed.
Obama also tweeted about it Friday, urging anyone who has the option to vote early to do it now.
And he said the postal service is vital for seniors who need their Social Security checks, veterans to get prescriptions and for small businesses.
"They can't be collateral damage for an administration more concerned with suppressing the vote than suppressing a virus," Obama tweeted.
A major union representing postal workers endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden Thursday. The National Association of Letter Carriers, which represents 300,000 current and retired workers, said Trump has long been hostile to the Post Office. His administration has called for an end to collective bargaining rights, proposed service cuts and has eyed the possibility of privatizing the functions of the agency.
Deb Reichmann and Anthony Izagurirre of the Associated Press contributed to this report.