Cross Platform Link: A version of this story appeared in CNN’s What Matters newsletter. To get it in your inbox, sign up for free here.
If it seemed like a stretch when Democrats just a few days ago accused President Donald Trump’s administration of trying to sabotage the mail system ahead of an election in which millions more Americans than usual will vote by mail, it should not have.
Trump just basically admitted it. Appearing on Fox News this morning, he explained why he opposes a $25 billion bailout for the Postal Service that was included in Democrats’ proposal for a new stimulus bill.
In short, the issue is mail-in voting. He doesn’t want the Postal Service enabling people to vote.
Here’s how he said it: “They want three and a half billion dollars for something that’ll turn out to be fraudulent. That’s election money, basically. They want three and a half billion dollars for the mail-in votes. Universal mail-in ballots. They want $25 billion, billion, for the post office. Now they need that money in order to make the post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots.”
To repeat: There’s no evidence mail-in voting is prone to fraud. That’s just Trump’s latest conspiracy theory. It’s specifically designed to make people mistrust the system.
Textbook voter suppression, arguably. And then, the turn by Trump, admitting his true aim, which is to make it harder for people to vote: “But if they don’t get those two items, that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting, because you – they’re not equipped to have it.”
His fear about his reelection chances, which is well-founded if the polls are half right, is that if people vote he’ll lose. So he’s futzing with the mail system to stop it. At least, that’s what he said he’s doing.
Self-fulfilling prophecy. So when Trump said the Postal Service couldn’t handle the onslaught of election mail, he was also trying to make sure it couldn’t handle it.
Trump’s meddling. At some point you have to wonder if Trump is so alert to election fraud because he’s so busy looking for opportunities to meddle himself. In Ukraine. Via USPS. Maybe by enabling Kanye West? You name it.
For the record, the Postal Service has pledged it can handle the ballots. But the Trump donor who is now postmaster general has instituted a reorganization of the USPS leadership and there have been calls to investigate reports of slowdowns caused by cut overtime and hours.
NPR talked to Kimberly Karol, the president of the postal workers union in Iowa, who said mail sorting machines are being removed there. And it’s having an effect. Mail, she said, is piling up.
She rejected the idea that this is all simply cost-cutting.
“I see this as a way to undermine the public confidence in the mail service,” Karol said. “It’s not saving costs. We’re spending more time trying to implement these policy changes. And it’s, in our offices, costing more over time.”
More than three-quarters of Americans can vote by mail. All of this at a time when, as The New York Times reported, after adding up all the states expanding vote by mail during the pandemic, 76% of Americans could vote by mail.
(Note here that you should remember on election night: Just because it might take a bit longer to count mail-in votes does not mean they are bad. It just means they were mailed, and it takes time to open envelopes and put them through counting machines.)
We’ve already reported many times on the security of mail-in ballots.
Trump’s attacks won’t help the half of Americans who are already anxious about voting by mail. According to a new Pew poll, 49% said they expect voting to be more difficult this year.
No help from SCOTUS. The Supreme Court will not intervene in a legal fight concerning absentee ballots in Rhode Island’s primary, meaning the state’s order removing a requirement that absentee ballots be signed by two witnesses or a notary public will stand.
The Republican National Committee has been engaged in court challenges to mail-in voting all over the country. CNN’s Jessica Schneider writes that Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch said they would have granted the RNC’s request for a stay.
Judge wants proof from Trump. CNN’s Katelyn Polantz reports on a separate RNC-initiated case in Pennsylvania in which the judge ordered the Trump campaign and Republicans to offer up proof of voter fraud by Friday: “The judge’s order, in a high-profile case about vote-by-mail in the battleground state, essentially forces the Trump campaign to try to back up President Donald Trump’s false claims about massive voter fraud in postal voting.”
Let’s see what they come up with.