As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi calls lawmakers back from summer recess for an urgent vote this week to stop changes at the U.S. Postal Service that could interfere with the upcoming election, we speak with California Congressmember Ro Khanna, who says millions of ballots could be at risk of going uncounted. “That, in my view, is a deliberate strategy to try to disqualify millions of votes and for the president to try to steal this election,” says Khanna. President Trump recently admitted he’s working to undermine the Postal Service in order to make it harder to vote by mail in November. Protests took place this weekend outside the homes of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy — a major Trump donor — who has instituted changes at the USPS that have slowed mail delivery and led to a days-long backlog in many parts of the United States, and the Postal Service sent letters to 46 states and Washington, D.C., warning that all mail-in ballots may not get delivered in time for voting.
AMY GOODMAN: All week this week, we are breaking with convention as we cover the Democratic National Convention. But we begin with the post office. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has called lawmakers back from summer recess for an urgent vote this week to stop changes at the U.S. Postal Service that could interfere with the upcoming election. President Trump has admitted to working to undermine the Postal Service in order to make it harder to vote by mail in November, telling Fox News Thursday Republicans rejected a new coronavirus stimulus bill over Democrats’ demands for funding to bolster election security and $25 billion to support the Postal Service.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Now, they need that money in order to have the post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots. Now, in the meantime, they aren’t getting there. By the way, those are just two items. But if they don’t get those two items, that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting.
AMY GOODMAN: Democrats are demanding Postmaster General Louis DeJoy — a major Trump megadonor — and other top officials testify before Congress. The internal USPS watchdog is reviewing recent policy changes and DeJoy’s compliance with ethics rules — that’s according to CNN.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Post Office said Friday it would stop removing mailboxes in the run-up to the election, even as reports emerged this weekend of these boxes being removed around New York and New Jersey and other parts of the country. Last week, the Postal Service sent letters to 46 states and Washington, D.C., warning all mail-in ballots may not get delivered on time. Vice News reports internal documents show the USPS introduced plans in May to take hundreds of letter-sorting machines out of service.
On Saturday morning, protesters staged a noisy “wake-up call” demonstration outside Postmaster DeJoy’s Washington, D.C., home, chanting and banging pots and pans.
HELEN: This is openly, blatantly attempting to steal an election. OK? We are going to be voting by mail in such high numbers this year. It’s a safe way to vote. People don’t want to go to the polls in a pandemic. And Donald Trump and Louis DeJoy are saying you can’t vote by mail.
AMY GOODMAN: Protests also took place Sunday outside the Greensboro, North Carolina, residence of Postmaster DeJoy.
This all comes as the Democratic National Convention kicks off virtually today, supposedly in Milwaukee. But our next guest, Democratic Congressmember Ro Khanna of California, will be voting no on the DNC platform. We’ll find out why, but first Ro Khanna is joining us from Washington, D.C. He’s a member of the House Oversight Committee — that’s the Committee on Oversight and Reform — where Postmaster General Louis DeJoy is set to testify a week from today.
Welcome back to Democracy Now!, Congressmember Khanna. Why don’t you lay out for us the crisis of the post office, with President Trump openly admitting on Fox that he is trying to defund the post office so that people cannot mail in their votes, although he and his wife plan to?
REP. RO KHANNA: Thank you. Well, it’s a very, very serious issue. And the president has seen the polling. He sees the polling that says that the overwhelming of Democrats want to vote by mail, because we’ve listened to a lot of the science and people are concerned about the safety on the pandemic, and a lot of the Republicans don’t want to vote by mail.
So his postmaster general has taken a deliberate attempt to remove vote sorting machines. Coincidentally, these vote sorting machines are being removed in battleground states. There are some reports that they’re being removed in areas where Hillary Clinton had done well.
The postmaster general has already ordered no overtime, so he’s shortening and lessening the staff time, to make it harder for ballots to get delivered on Election Day. Why does this matter? Because in the battleground states, many of the states have a law that if the ballot is not received by Election Day, that ballot doesn’t count. That is the law in Pennsylvania and in Michigan and a number of other states.
So you could see a situation where millions of people vote; their ballot is sent, even in some cases a week before; it doesn’t get to the election officer by Election Day, and it’s discarded. And that, in my view, is a deliberate strategy to try to disqualify millions of votes and for the president to try to steal this election.
AMY GOODMAN: So, you were all supposed to come back in September. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has called you back earlier. Explain what’s going to happen in your committee, Congressman Khanna, in the Oversight Committee.
REP. RO KHANNA: Well, Amy, my view is we should have never left. I mean, first of all, we still have the urgent task of getting people resources. They’ve been unemployed. We don’t have the unemployment extension. We don’t have rental assistance. We don’t have a stimulus check. So we need to be in Washington.
But we need to do a few things as concerns the post office. First, it’s not enough to just at this point give the post office money. I mean, DeJoy is not going to spend that money in a way that we can trust. We need to have very specific legislation that dictates exactly what the post office needs to do — the number of staff members they need, the shifts they need, the mail sorting equipment they need. It has to be statutorily spelled out.
And I believe there needs to be criminal penalties for the Board of Governors or the postmaster general for not following that. I mean, what is absurd is you have the board governor as a former RNC chair who ran Mitch McConnell’s super PAC. It makes absolutely no sense for a mature democracy to have the post office being run currently by political hacks. And we need to have legislation that basically takes over the administration of the post office until the election.
AMY GOODMAN: Obama’s campaign manager, one of them, David Plouffe, tweeted, “1) Prime time hearings … 2) Subpoenas to Trump WH and camp officials. This is a RICO case 3) Visit local post offices with cameras–show people what is happening. 4) Events with those getting Rx late 5) Involve governors 5) No rest, no vacation. Go to war for our country.” So, if you can talk about what he’s referring to here, and this issue of getting — veterans and everyone else getting their prescriptions, the question of why Trump would be doing this, when he gets a lot of rural support, and so many people in rural areas — I mean, the post office is one of the most popular agencies in this country, older than the United States itself, 1775.
REP. RO KHANNA: Well, David Plouffe is absolutely right, and he’s been a very strong voice on this. And I do think we have to win the narrative to let people know what the president’s doing. And you’re absolutely right: It’s going to hurt him in rural communities, it’s going to hurt him in a lot of places that voted for him, because people are going to realize that it’s going to take longer for them to get their medicine, it’s going to take longer for them to get essential equipment and packages. But the challenge is that the president has calculated that that’s fine, that he’s willing to have that kind of slowdown in order to potentially disenfranchise millions of people.
So, while we have to — I agree with David Plouffe: We have to be as loud as possible of letting people know what this president is doing to the post office. We also need to solve the fundamental problem to make sure that the president can’t do it. And I don’t think political demonstration and political outrage is going to be enough. We’ve seen that this president is totally indifferent to public sentiment. So, how do we get the post office to actually follow regulatory guidelines, with the threat of criminal sanctions, to make sure that they are delivering the mail? I think that is going to be a large focus on these hearings.
AMY GOODMAN: And the fact that the postmaster general, Louis DeJoy — a megadonor for Trump, headed up funding the Republican National Convention — and his wife are major investors, to the tune of something like $75 million, perhaps to $100 million, in competitors to the post office and contractors, this didn’t come out in Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s release of documents, but in his wife, Wos, who is President Trump’s choice to be the U.S. ambassador to Canada.
REP. RO KHANNA: You’re absolutely right. I mean, they have wanted to privatize the post office for decades. I mean, as you know, it goes back to 2006, when they passed a law requiring the post office to put money away for 75 years for people’s retirement. And DeJoy was just selected to further the effort of privatization.
But this is, I think, the great debate in our nation, the erosion of any sense of public commons, the erosion of public schools, the erosion of the post office, the erosion of the town square with private funding. The Republican vision for this country is a free market absolutism, where money should dictate, private sector should dictate, in a total erosion of any public commons. And that is not going to sit well, as you pointed out, Amy, in rural communities and communities across this country that believe that we should have some social fabric.