As Democrats increasingly decry what they have characterized as President Donald Trump’s assault on the U.S Postal Service, some are warning of possible legal consequences for the administration’s actions. Among them is former Attorney General Eric Holder. On Saturday morning, law professor and legal analyst Barb McQuade pointed out that obstructing mail is a federal offense and wondered who would prosecute Postmaster General Louis DeJoy in the Department of Justice headed by William Barr. “The next, real, Justice Department,” Holder replied.
Earlier, Holder posted a tweet that simply stated the law regarding the fines and imprisonment of up to six months that anyone who “willfully obstructs or retards the passage of the mail” can face. Holder has been posting quite a bit on the Postal Service lately and in that sense is like a lot of Democrats who have taken up the issue that was simmering for weeks in the news cycle but seemed unable to break through amid the coronavirus disaster. Now, Democrats increasingly seem to realize that Trump’s actions regarding the Postal Service gives them an opportunity to coalesce behind a message that might even help them win over new voters.
Among those speaking up is former President Barack Obama, who said Trump is trying to “actively kneecap” the Postal Service in order to affect mail-in voting ahead of the election. “What we’ve never seen before is a president say, ‘I’m going to try to actively kneecap the Postal Service to [discourage] voting, and I will be explicit about the reason I’m doing it.’ That’s sort of unheard of,” Obama told David Plouffe, who was his campaign manager in 2008, in an interview. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, meanwhile, is among those trying to use the new attention on the Postal Service to get people to vote early. “I would say if you were going to vote by mail, that you vote early because they will try to say, ‘Well, it doesn’t have a stamp, so it doesn’t have to be postmarked so we’ll just throw it in the corner,’ ” Pelosi said on MSNBC. “They’re going to do everything they can to slow the mail, and that’s just not right. So, again, vote early.”
Amid all the talk about the Postal Service, a group of protesters gathered outside DeJoy’s home in Washington, D.C. on Saturday morning. The “noise demonstration,” which was organized by a group called Shut Down D.C. took place in the Adams Morgan neighborhood. “DeJoy has fired or reassigned much of the existing USPS leadership and ordered the removal of mail sorting machines that are fundamental to the functioning of the postal service. Meanwhile, mail delivery is slowing down under other decisions made by DeJoy, such as eliminating overtime for postal workers,” the group said in a statement.
The protest took place a day after reports that the U.S. Postal Service recently sent letters to most states warning that it can’t guarantee all ballots cast by mail in the November election will arrive in time to be counted. “The Postal Service is asking election officials and voters to realistically consider how the mail works,” Martha Johnson, a spokeswoman for the USPS, said in a statement.
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