As protests over police killings of Black Americans continue around the country, and as the pandemic continues to take its devastating toll, the Trump administration is digging into its usual playbook of unsubstantiated claims, harmful messages, and politicized decisions.
So it shouldn’t be a surprise that on Wednesday, President Donald Trump created a new controversy when he said that voters should, after mailing in ballots, “then go and vote” a second time. Voting twice in the same election is, of course, illegal, and is exactly the type of fraud that Trump has erroneously claimed is rife in mail-in voting.
The dust-up over the president’s problematic statements predictably led to White House efforts to “clarify” that what he really meant was that voters should go to polling places to check that their ballots had been counted. But it also gave Attorney General William Barr the opportunity to say, when asked to respond to Trump’s comments on Wednesday, that mail-in voting was “fraught with the risk of” such fraud. Like the existence of the voter fraud task forces that have been cropping up in states across the country, such statements serve to undermine confidence in our elections and dissuade voters from casting a ballot.
Meanwhile, genuine threats to election security — namely, continued foreign interference, including by Russia and China — appear to be lower on the administration’s priority list. On Monday, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe told members of Congress that he would no longer be providing in-person briefings on election security, which could make it harder for lawmakers to press officials for answers.
The chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff, has indicated that lawmakers could subpoena intelligence officials to testify. Similarly, the House Oversight Committee this week issued a subpoena to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy for records related to the controversial changes he has overseen at the U.S. Postal Service, which have resulted in significant mail delays and have sparked outrage and fear that the changes were intended to hinder the agency’s ability to handle widespread mail-in voting in November. The documents sought by Congress include DeJoy’s unredacted work calendars, which American Oversight requested in a Freedom of Information Act request that USPS rejected, and which Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez pressed for during DeJoy’s hearing before the committee last week.
More about DeJoy’s financial ties, and other news from this week, below:
Scrutiny Over DeJoy’s Appointment and Business Ties: As the Washington Post detailed last month, the appointment in May of DeJoy — a businessman and major Republican donor — came after the president’s multi-year effort to reshape the USPS Board of Governors, which is now controlled, 4 to 2, by members loyal to him.
According to reports, when the board was presented in the spring with a list of more than 50 candidates for the postmaster job, DeJoy’s name was not one of them — not until board member John Barger added it, acting on behalf of board chair Robert “Mike” Duncan. Like DeJoy, Barger and Duncan were also Trump donors. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had also met with Republicans on the six-member board during the search for the new postmaster, reportedly taking a leading role in pushing for the cost-cutting “reforms” Trump had long wanted to see.
But it’s not just the circumstances of DeJoy’s appointment that have raised eyebrows. His past job as the head of a large logistics company that did business with the post office has also sparked concern. According to the New York Times, USPS has paid about $286 million to XPO Logistics since 2014, and that revenue has surged since June, when DeJoy took over. The Times also reports that DeJoy still holds at least a $30 million stake in the company. USPS has said that DeJoy has no involvement in contracting decisions, and that he is recused from any work related to XPO, but questions remain about DeJoy’s history of leveraging large donations.
Who Really Cares About the Hatch Act? Lots of people do — and should, as we outline here — care about the multiple ways the Republican National Convention violated the law that prohibits federal employees from engaging in partisan political activity while at work. That includes Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, both of whom were featured in the convention’s events while conducting official business or, as in Pompeo’s case, on official travel to Jerusalem.
Pompeo, as he has done in multiple other instances when called out for potential misconduct, defended his speech, saying it was in his “personal capacity.” But that defense may still be legally questionable, and the secretary “absolutely put himself at risk for civil or criminal violations of the Hatch Act,” American Oversight’s Austin Evers told ABC News last week. “We need to know a little bit more about just how much he was screened into his ‘personal capacity’ for his speech.”
New Hampshire Lawsuit Seeks Governor’s Emails with Redistricting Group: Last year, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu vetoed bipartisan legislation for the creation of an independent redistricting commission. In January, a resident of the state requested records related to this veto through a New Hampshire right-to-know law — specifically, records of emails between Sununu and the National Republican Redistricting Trust, which is led by former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.
American Oversight is representing the requester, and this week made a case before a New Hampshire judge that, contrary to the claims of the state that the records aren’t subject to disclosure because they were sent on private accounts, the emails should be released to the public. “It’s just difficult to understand how those do not fall within the definition of governmental records,” American Oversight’s Katherine Anthony said.