In her first two years in Congress, Rep. Katie Porter has developed a reputation for tough interrogations of Trump administration officials during hearings. The freshman congresswoman from California has gone viral on multiple occasions for that questioning, including the time early in the COVID-19 pandemic that she pressured the chief of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to promise to make coronavirus testing free.
That’s why it read as more than an idle threat last week when Porter tweeted a warning about Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s upcoming congressional testimony: “I hope the Postmaster General comes prepared. I know I will.”
On Monday, DeJoy appeared before the House Oversight Committee, and Porter lived up to her promise. For the first few hours, DeJoy repeated his evasive performance from last week’s Senate testimony, declaring that he hadn’t been responsible for U.S. Postal Service changes that have resulted in delays in mail delivery, including late arrivals of prescription medication and farm animals that have been posted dead on arrival.
DeJoy said that some of the changes that have happened during his tenure—such as mass removals of sorting machines and reported changes to overtime pay—were not his doing and, indeed, he did not know who implemented and directed these changes. At the same time, he said that while he had no idea who had unplugged mail sorting machines and had no intention of finding out, he would not contradict a mandate for postal employees “not to reconnect/reinstall machines that have previously been disconnected without approval from HQ Maintenance, no matter what direction they are getting from their plant manager.”
These contradictions—DeJoy saying he wasn’t responsible for the changes that appear to have contributed to the mail slowdown and also that he wouldn’t now commit to reversing those changes—were present throughout the hearing in front of the House Oversight and Reform Committee.
That’s why Porter’s turn seemed to particularly cut through the noise.
You can watch the whole thing here:
Porter received the most attention for a very simple and practical series of questions to which DeJoy simply had no answer—he was unable to offer the price of a postcard, the starting rate for priority mail, or the number of mail-in ballots delivered in the last election. While those may seem like a series of unfair “gotcha” questions only intended to embarrass DeJoy, they starkly demonstrated his lack of qualifications for the job. He is the first postmaster general in two decades to come from outside of the organization and got the job only after being elevated to the top of the interview list by another million-dollar Trump donor who chairs the Postal Service’s Board of Governors.
While these questions had their intended effect, this wasn’t even particularly Porter’s strongest line of questioning. Her best questions came when she confronted DeJoy about an inspector general investigation into his numerous apparent conflicts of interest, including “covered call” options he maintains in the stock of a major USPS customer, Amazon, as well as a large continued stake in his former logistics company that still does business with the Postal Service.
Porter asked DeJoy flatly, “If the inspector general finds that you committed misconduct” with regard to these apparent conflicts of interest, “will you commit to then resigning?”
DeJoy responded, “I don’t believe they will find misconduct, but I don’t see why I would commit here right now to resigning for any reason.” That acknowledgement that an independent inspector general finding that he abused his office would not result in his resignation demonstrates the absolute impunity with which DeJoy believes he can do his job.
The exchange continued with DeJoy essentially saying there was nothing he could do that would warrant resignation or removal from his office. He then contradicted his own previous statements about his current financial position in Amazon:
Porter: You don’t think there’s any reason that you should ever resign?
DeJoy: No reason that I’ve heard here today.
Porter: Do you own any financial interest in Amazon?
DeJoy: I do not.
In five short minutes, Porter demonstrated how DeJoy did not know the most basic facts about his organization’s pricing, that he had conflicts of interest he was deceiving the public about, and that he considered himself above any legitimate oversight.
In the future, Democrats should either take note of how Porter did it or perhaps just hand their time to her.
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