Ex-Postal Service board member testifies Mnuchin tried to politicize agency

The former vice chairman of the U.S. Postal Service board of governors and inspector general accused Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinShutdown clash looms after Democrats unveil spending bill Lawmakers fear voter backlash over failure to reach COVID-19 relief deal United Airlines, unions call for six-month extension of government aid MORE of trying to politicize the independent agency during testimony before lawmakers on Thursday.

David Williams, a former Postal Service inspector general who resigned in April as the vice chairman of the agency's board of governors, said that he stepped down from his role because he felt the Treasury Department was trying to make the traditionally apolitical agency a "political tool."

“I resigned from the board of governors because I was convinced that its independent role had been marginalized and that representations regarding an independent Postal Service for the nation were no longer truthful," Williams said during a forum hosted by the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

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“By statute, the Treasury was made responsible for providing the Postal Service with a line of credit,” Williams said. “The Treasury was using that responsibility to make demands that I believed would turn the Postal Service into a political tool, ending its long history as an apolitical public infrastructure.”

Williams said that Mnuchin "insisted" that all GOP appointees to the Postal Service board of governors and the Postal Regulatory Commission "kiss the ring" before confirmation and kept close tabs on labor agreements, price increases and volume discounts given to customers like Amazon and UPS.

Williams, one of the board's designated Democratic members, served on the board of governors for nearly two years until his resignation and before that was the agency's inspector general for 13 years.

Williams said that an executive hiring firm was contracted to recommend a candidate for the position of postmaster general, but the GOP donor who ultimately got the job, Louis DeJoyLouis DeJoyHillicon Valley: Murky TikTok deal raises questions about China's role | Twitter investigating automated image previews over apparent algorithmic bias | House approves bill making hacking federal voting systems a crime Judge orders Postal Service treat election mail as priority The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by The Air Line Pilots Association - White House moves closer to Pelosi on virus relief bill MORE, was instead introduced late in the process by John Barger, another member of the Postal Service's board of governors who was appointed by President TrumpDonald John TrumpBubba Wallace to be driver of Michael Jordan, Denny Hamlin NASCAR team Graham: GOP will confirm Trump's Supreme Court nominee before the election Southwest Airlines, unions call for six-month extension of government aid MORE.

Williams said that DeJoy "didn't strike me as a serious candidate" and that Barger helped him finish a number of sentences during the interview process.

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Mnuchin said Thursday that neither he nor any other Treasury official played a role in recruiting DeJoy for the postmaster general job but did ask that the Postal Service board of governors keep him "apprised" during its search to fill the position.

He also said that he routinely reviews quarterly financial information provided by the Postal Service in his role as chair of the Federal Financing Bank (FFB), the sole Postal Service lender. In addition, Mnuchin has chaired a task force to review the operations of the Postal Service since 2018.

"Like any responsible creditor or guarantor, I take seriously my responsibility for sound stewardship of taxpayer dollars that the FFB lends and the U.S. Treasury guarantees," Mnuchin wrote in a letter on Thursday to Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerJacobin editor: Primarying Schumer would force him to fight Trump's SCOTUS nominee CNN's Toobin: Democrats are 'wimps' who won't 'have the guts' to add Supreme Court seats Republican senator says plans to confirm justice before election 'completely consistent with the precedent' MORE (D-N.Y.).

DeJoy is set to testify before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Friday and the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Monday.

DeJoy, who became postmaster general in June, has come under scrutiny for implementing a series of cost-cutting measures at the Postal Service that have led to delayed mail deliveries, including limiting overtime and removing mail-sorting machines from some facilities.

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The changes to Postal Service operations came as Trump has repeatedly attacked voting by mail, despite casting ballots to vote absentee in Florida primaries this year himself.

DeJoy reversed course earlier this week and said that further changes to Postal Service operations would be suspended until after the elections, in which many people are expected to vote by mail during the COVID-19 pandemic.

DeJoy said that retail hours at post offices will remain unchanged, further mail processing equipment and collection boxes will not be removed, no mail processing facilities will be closed and that his agency will institute “stand-by resources” effective Oct. 1 “to satisfy any unforeseen demand.”

“To avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail, I am suspending these initiatives until after the election is concluded,” DeJoy said in his announcement.

But Democrats argue that DeJoy's announcement didn't go far enough in reversing changes that had already been made. The House is scheduled to vote Saturday on legislation that would prevent the Postal Service from making any changes resulting in reduced service to its operations that were in effect as of January and provide $25 billion for the agency.