The question of what has been going on at the U.S. Postal Service has been a subject of increasing concern as the election draws nearer and as Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s leadership remains mired in controversy.
For instance, how DeJoy has spent his time and with whom he has met is still largely unknown, thanks to USPS’s refusal to release his — or his staff’s — official calendars to American Oversight under the Freedom of Information Act. Given that he previously was the head of a large logistics and distribution company, plus the recent campaign-finance allegations that he illegally reimbursed his employees for making political donations to his preferred candidates, the public deserves to see who may be influencing DeJoy’s decision-making; on Tuesday, we sued USPS to compel the release of those records.
But other documents we have obtained from USPS do tell us about the people DeJoy brought in to work for him after he assumed office on June 15. Those records, reported on by CNN on Tuesday, reveal that he hired four people who had worked for his businesses, including two senior executive advisers who had both worked at XPO Logistics, where DeJoy had served as a board member after the company had acquired his business New Breed Logistics. According to the records, their base salaries in late June were $180,000 and $195,000. DeJoy’s base salary? $303,460.
We also recently obtained nearly 10,000 pages of records that contain new details about the post office’s struggles during the early months of the pandemic, including a press release about a thwarted plan to provide masks to every U.S. household, as well as discussions about an apparent attempt by the Treasury to take over USPS operations. But hours after the Washington Post published a story on those documents, USPS contacted us to request that the documents be taken down.
In the spirit of good faith, we have agreed to temporarily take down the full production while we wait for the agency to specify which documents it believes may be appropriate for redaction. In its place, we have provided excerpts that relate to topics that have already been publicly reported, such as those concerning USPS’s pandemic response; you can view those records as well as USPS’s request letter here.
Of course, that’s not all that’s been going on this week. Here’s what else you need to know:
Back in April, the president signed an executive order that called meat-processing plants “critical infrastructure,” thus allowing them to stay open even as cases of Covid-19 climbed among the ranks of their workers. New emails obtained by American Oversight and Public Citizen show that just a week before that order, industry executives had provided the Department of Agriculture with a draft executive order that bears similarities to the one eventually signed by Trump. They also asked that Secretary Sonny Perdue work to get the White House to discourage workers who were afraid to return to the job from staying home.
A day before that order was signed, as revealed in other records we obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the CEO of Smithfield Foods emailed CDC Director Robert Redfield to tell him, “Our industry needs help.” Of course, the New York Times has since reported that during that same month, the pork industry — including Smithfield — was exporting record amounts of pork to China. As of today, more than 42,000 meatpacking workers have tested positive for Covid-19, and at least 200 have died.
Alarm over the Trump administration’s politicization of scientific agencies is increasing, with the president’s aggressive (and what many experts say is unrealistic) timeline for developing, approving and distributing a coronavirus vaccine. This week saw another split emerge, as CDC Director Redfield told a Senate panel that a vaccine likely would not be broadly available until the middle or end of 2021, and that mask-wearing was a key way to control the pandemic.
Of course, that didn’t make the mask-averse president too happy. After Trump said Redfield had “made a mistake,” Redfield’s spokesperson initially said the director had intended to say most Americans would complete their vaccinations next summer. But just an hour later, Redfield’s office rescinded that statement. Along with Accountable Pharma and Lower Drug Prices Now, we also filed a series of FOIA requests for the release of contracts between federal agencies and pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, and Sanofi Pasteur.
Former Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s membership as one of the “three amigos” running the president’s shadow Ukraine policy had always elicited more questions than answers. But now, thanks to reporting by ProPublica, Time, and WNYC — and records obtained by American Oversight — we now know that Perry was working to get a gigantic energy deal for his associates.
Records released to us through FOIA litigation include emails between Perry’s office and Michael Bleyzer, a Ukrainian-born investor who joined Perry on his trip to Kyiv in May 2019 for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s inauguration. According to reporting, Bleyzer also has had contacts at Energy Transfer, the Texas company for which Perry served on the board before his joining the administration — and after he left. Energy Transfer is at the center of a potential $20 billion deal to ship U.S. natural gas to Ukraine. Read more here.
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