The information the IRS needs to send out the payments was finally delivered on Thursday morning after threatening letters sent to Social Security Commissioner Andrew Saul and his Deputy David Black by leaders of the House Ways and Means and Oversight Committees. There is still no word on when the deposts/checks will go out. The latest estimate is that those of us in these categories will still have to wait at least 10 days to see the money.
Meanwhile, calls on Biden to fire Saul and Black are growing louder.
Weeks after the American Rescue Plan had been signed into law, while many Americans had already received payments, the Social Security Administration’s inaction was standing in the way of millions of beneficiaries receiving desperately needed cash aid. After escalating pressure on Saul to no avail, the letter gave him 24 hours to remedy the holdup. A few hours later, the SSA announced that they’d be sending the information the next day.
This delay is just the latest in an array of extremely troubling decisions under the leadership of the Social Security Administration’s commissioner Saul, and his deputy David Black….
Commissioner Saul and Deputy Commissioner Black were appointed by President Trump, alongside Deputy Commissioner for Retirement and Disability Policy Mark Warshawsky, to self-fulfill the Republican promise about the failure of government, and destroy the departments they were tasked with managing. Warshawsky, a veteran of the American Enterprise Institute, was pegged as an early candidate to be fired by the Biden administration for his work undercutting the program; he retired from the post in late January.
The Biden administration has set to work rolling back some of those Trump appointees’ designs on Social Security, including a proposed rule that would have subjected disability insurance recipients to even more frequent and stringent eligibility reviews, which would make an already challenging process even more difficult for people with disabilities to secure and maintain cash benefits. That move was widely celebrated among advocates. But President Biden has not heeded the call from those same advocates to fire Saul and Black, who have clear track records of working against the very department they’ve been tasked to head up, and against Democratic ambitions on Social Security.
Now, a growing number of congressional Democrats are joining the chorus calling for Saul and Black’s ousters. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) called for their resignation as his first act as chair of the Social Security and Pensions Subcommittee, and has since urged Biden to fire them. He’s joined House Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee Chairman John Larson, Worker and Family Support Subcommittee Chairman Danny Davis, and Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Bill Pascrell Jr. in demanding Saul’s immediate removal. Both Saul and Black are serving terms that don’t expire until 2025….
On the campaign trail, Biden insisted (straining against historical fact) he had never and would never vouch for cuts to Social Security. He, and the Democratic Party broadly, have made protecting and expanding Social Security a main plank of the party’s policy platform going forward.
That ambition is irreconcilable with a leadership regime that has, as was reported by Yahoo News, put “illegitimate political pressure on Administrative Law Judges to reduce the rate of Social Security disability case approval,” as one such judge recently claimed. That alone should be scandal enough to imperil Saul and Black’s positions at the agency, and give the Biden administration the space to fire them for cause. But the Trump years have built up a tolerance for scandal, which means that the incident hasn’t even deterred them.
Meanwhile, Saul and Black have openly pursued a number of reforms aimed at aggressively curtailing benefits. Their attempted rule change, which the Biden administration rolled back, was a Reagan-era reform that would have led to tens of thousands of people losing benefits. When President Reagan enacted it, it led to a rash of suicides, and was deemed so cruel that it led to a unanimous Senate ruling to overturn it. Elsewhere, they’ve sought to deny benefits for older and severely disabled non–English speakers, resulting in an estimated 100,000 people being denied more than $5 billion in benefits.
See my Thursday post for more about Saul and Black’s efforts to destroy Social Security on Thursday.
Pressure is also building for Biden to get rid of Trump-appointed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy.
A group of House Democrats on Friday introduced legislation to prohibit the Postal Service from lengthening mail-delivery windows and require it to adhere to present service expectations. They named the bill the Delivering Envelopes Judiciously On-time Year-round Act, or DEJOY Act.
Carl Larsson: Brita, Cat and Sandwich
One House aide involved in postal reform legislation introduced in February said some members of the caucus are leery of proceeding with efforts to address the Postal Service’s financial obligations given that DeJoy’s 10-year plan includes sharp reductions in service, including slower timetables for mail delivery and reduced post office hours.
Separately, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D) threatened to take legal action to block the service cuts. His office said in a statement Friday that it was encouraged that DeJoy recognizes the legal obligations to secure limited regulatory approvals, but said it remained concerned about timely mail delivery….
DeJoy hopes to save the Postal Service $160 billion over the next decade through a combination of austerity measures, postage price increases and projected package volume growth. But the largest single piece of his plan is dependent on Congress repealing its pre-funding mandate for retiree health care costs, which runs about $5 billion a year. Instead, the agency wants to wind down those payments and enroll future retirees in Medicare, a proposal worth $44 billion.
A bill introduced by Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, chair of the powerful House Oversight and Reform Committee, includes both components.
But DeJoy’s designs to slow the mail — even as the Postal Service attempts to rebound from generationally poor service metrics in recent months — and perceived animus toward lawmakers in recent hearings have made those prospects more difficult.
Sometimes America’s legacy of white supremacy is hiding in plain sight, literally. When Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed a hastily passed voter suppression law that many are calling the new, new Jim Crow on Thursday night, surrounded by a half-dozen white men, he did so in front of a painting of a plantation where more than 100 Black people had been enslaved.
Lady reading with cat-Albert Roosenboom
The fitting symbolism is somehow both shocking and unsurprising. In using the antebellum image of the notorious Callaway Plantation — in a region where enslaved Black people seeking freedom were hunted with hounds — in Wilkes County, Ga., as the backdrop for signing a bill that would make it a crime to hand water to a thirsty voter waiting on Georgia’s sometimes hours-long voter lines, the GOP governor was sending a clear message about race and human rights in the American South.
The portrait of the plantation was the starkest reminder of Georgia’s history of white racism that spans slavery, Jim Crow segregation, the rebirth of the modern Ku Klux Klan, and today’s voter purges targeting Black and brown voters — but it wasn’t the only one. At the very moment that Kemp was signing the law with his all-white posse, a Black female Georgia lawmaker — Rep. Park Cannon — who’d knocked on the governor’s door in the hopes of watching the bill signing was instead dragged away and arrested by state troopers, in a scene that probably had the Deep South’s racist sheriffs of yesteryear like Bull Connor or Jim Clark smiling in whatever fiery hellhole they now inhabit.
Indeed, Twitter was on fire Thursday night with posters drawing the straight line from notorious past segregationists like George Wallace to the 2021 actions of Kemp and the GOP-led Georgia Legislature in passing — at great speed and with little debate — a lengthy bill that also limits easy-access drop boxes for ballots and places onerous voter-ID restrictions on voting by mail, and which the New York Times reports “will have an outsized effect on Black voters.”
On one level this new voter-suppression law — “voter integrity,” in the modern GOP’s Orwellian branding — is inspired by the current and possible future events of ex-President Donald Trump’s Big Lie about fraud in the 2020 election, the narrow upset wins in Georgia for President Biden and two new Democratic senators, and the threat that voting icon Stacey Abrams poses to Kemp in the 2022 election. But there’s also a powerful pull back to Georgia past. That link is made clear by the history hanging right behind Kemp on Thursday.
“Things have changed dramatically” in the South, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in 2013 when he authored the majority opinion gutting the Voting Rights Act, ruling that states with a long history of discrimination no longer needed to have changes to their voting procedures approved by the federal government.
Voter suppression in Georgia is Exhibit A for why he is wrong.
After Joe Biden carried the state in November and Black voters turned out in record numbers in the January runoffs to elect Democrat Raphael Warnock as the state’s first Black senator and Democrat Jon Ossoff as the state’s first Jewish senator, Georgia Republicans passed a sweeping rewrite of the state’s election laws on Thursday to make it harder for Democratic constituencies to vote and have their ballots counted.
Though some Georgia Republicans, most notably Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, defended the integrity of the 2020 election, the “Election Integrity Act of 2021” heavily restricts mail ballot drop boxes, adds new ID requirements for mail-in voting, throws out ballots cast in the wrong precincts, and makes it a crime to give voters food and water while they’re waiting in line.
In addition to making it harder to vote, the new law allows the GOP-controlled legislature to appoint a majority of members of the state election board and gives the board the power to take over county election boards, making it easier for Republicans to challenge election results, take over election administration in large Democratic counties, and even decline to certify the results if Democrats win close races—which Trump tried and failed to get the state to do in 2020.
One of the small, rueful truths that many Americans held in the back of their minds throughout the pandemic year was that, for all of its horrors, it had at least reduced, or even eliminated, the spectacle of the gun massacre. School closings had momentarily ended school shootings; curbside delivery had, it seemed, halted in-store assaults. It is true that gun fatalities were disturbingly trending upward in big cities, for reasons that are as yet as mysterious as those for the great decline that preceded them, and that, according to the Gun Violence Archive, last year saw the highest number of shooting deaths in decades. In fact, keyed, perhaps, by a general sense of panic marked by the pandemic and a bizarrely unsettled election year—with that strange American certainty that they’re coming for you—gun sales soared, even amid groups that are not normally associated with buying firearms in numbers.
The gun massacre, however—five or twenty or fifty people murdered at a time—had, briefly, vanished. Yet, alongside the knowledge that mass shootings had gone stood the knowledge that they would, inevitably, reëmerge. And here they are, right on schedule, as the country “opens up,” and with a vengeance: seven in the past seven days, with eight people killed in three shootings in Atlanta, and ten in a grocery store in Boulder. With those shootings come back all the usual, understandable, and all-too-human reactions—above all, our urge to give them some kind of meaning by making them an index of a larger issue. Violence this blankly nihilistic needs a point projected into it, to redeem it as a subject of discussion….
Countries that resemble ours in every way except for the availability of guns have much lower levels of gun violence and far fewer gun massacres. Yet these truths, demonstrated again and again, meet the same resistance, over and over. The Second Amendment guarantees private ownership of even military-style weapons. (It doesn’t, or rather, until very recently, not even conservative Justices imagined that it did.) Guns are essential for self-protection. (They aren’t.) The way to stop mass shootings is to arm more people, such as teachers. (A “colossally stupid idea,” according to the co-president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.)
All this, even as the sheer psychic damage done by the omnipresence of guns in America is self-evident (no healthy society should have to train its children in active-shooter drills), while the social damage extends far beyond the immediate casualties. A reason for the prevalence of police shootings in America is that the police go about armed, in levels unique to our society, in order to deal with the uniquely over-armed civilians they fear encountering, with the frequently fatal results, we know too well, for the unarmed and the innocent.
Sorry this isn’t a more cheerful post. I’ll probably be up for something more upbeat if I finally get that promised $1400. What’s on your mind today?
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President Biden is going to have a press conference this afternoon, and I wish someone would ask him why around 30,000,000 people on Social Security, disability, veterans, and railroad pensions haven’t gotten their stimulus payments yet. Furthermore, why hasn’t he fired two Trump holdovers at the Social Security Administration who are holding up the payments and who are trying to destroy Social Security?
Social Security hasn’t handed over payment information that the Internal Revenue Service needs to send the coronavirus relief checks to nearly 30 million people receiving retirement or disability benefits, Democrats said.
“We understand that these beneficiaries are waiting because the Social Security Administration has not sent the necessary payment files to the Internal Revenue Service,” House Ways and Means Committee chair Richard Neal (D-Mass.) said in a letter to Social Security Commissioner Andrew Saul.
Several Democrats, including Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.), had previously urged President Joe Biden to fire Saul, a Donald Trump appointee whose term doesn’t expire until 2025. Biden has hesitated to do so even though he’s fired other Trump holdovers in other agencies before their terms have ended.
The IRS has sent more than 127 million payments so far. Neal and other members of his committee earlier this week asked Social Security and the IRS to explain the delayed payments to Social Security beneficiaries.
In Wednesday’s letter, Democrats said they became “aware that the IRS asked SSA to start sending payment files two weeks before the American Rescue Plan became law on March 11, 2021” ― and that Social Security still hasn’t provided the information.
People in these categories are the poorest of the poor, including Social Security recipients who don’t have enough income to file tax returns.
We are giving the trump-appointed heads of the Social Security Admin **24 Hours** to get off their backsides and stop delaying sending stimulus checks to 30,000,000 Americans. pic.twitter.com/zsx7t9vKvC
President Biden is facing increasing pressure to remove two Social Security Administration officials appointed by his Republican predecessor, a standoff that could test the limits of his ability to undo Donald Trump’s legacy.
The brewing controversy surrounds Andrew Saul and David Black, the agency’s commissioner and deputy commissioner, whom Trump appointed to fixed-term positions that don’t end until 2025. As term appointees, they can’t be removed by Biden except for cause, but unions and Capitol Hill alike are demanding that Biden find a way to remove them, accusing them of creating a toxic work environment, contributing to low morale due to staff cuts, and sidelining the agency’s administrative law judges.
The continued presence of the Trump appointees underscores the difficulties the Biden administration faces when trying to roll back some of the previous administration’s efforts to reshape the federal government. While traditional political appointees must resign or face being fired when a new administration comes in, presidents are also able to install fixed-term employees to boards and other government positions that can outlast their administration.
Saul, a New York businessman and Republican donor, and Black, a former Bush administration staffer, have been in their positions since 2019. According to critics, the two officials have engaged in “no-holds-barred union busting” and eliminated the agency’s pre-pandemic telework program, forcing over 10,000 employees to commute to work — a rule change that continues despite the onset of COVID-19. (That did not apply to Saul, who reportedly continued to work from home as thousands of his employees commuted during the onset of the pandemic.)
There’s more at the Yahoo News link.
Social Security Commissioner Andrew Saul and his Deputy David Black "are sabotaging the Biden administration by delaying relief checks."
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy on Tuesday unveiled the largest rollback of consumer mail services in a generation, part of a 10-year plan that includes longer first-class delivery windows, reduced post office hours and higher postage prices.
DeJoy presented his long-awaited strategic vision for the U.S. Postal Service during a Tuesday webinar. Portions of the initiative already made public have raised alarms from postal advocates, who say they could further erode agency performance. Mailing industry officials warn that substantial service cuts could drive away business and worsen its already battered finances.
But DeJoy has cited the need for austerity to ensure more consistent delivery and rein in losses. The agency is weighed down by $188.4 billion in liabilities, and DeJoy told a House panel last month that he expects the Postal Service to lose $160 billion over the next 10 years. Without the plan, Postal Service Board of Governors Chairman Ron Bloom said, the agency’s future was “profoundly threatened.”
DeJoy’s plan to make up that projected shortfall largely depends on Congress repealing a retiree health care pre-funding mandate and allowing postal workers to enroll in Medicare. The agency also will ask President Biden to order a review of how much the Postal Service should have paid into its pension funds, and credit the mail agency with any overpayments.
DeJoy projected these steps would save the agency $58 billion over the next decade, and the agency could make up the rest through postage rate increases ($44 billion in new revenue), “self-help” cost cutting in mail processing, transportation and administrative efficiencies ($34 billion), and revenue from package volume and price increases ($24 billion).
Presidents get to decorate the Oval Office any way they want, and it’s usually telling. Joe Biden for example, requested that five portraits be hung around the fireplace. There’s George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and one of the greatest Americans who never became president: Alexander Hamilton.
And in the middle of this esteemed group is a fifth portrait in a place of honor over the fireplace: Franklin D. Roosevelt. Biden, who will be the last president who lived during FDR’s momentous era, deeply admires our 32nd president, and it shows in both his style and way of governing.
No president since Roosevelt inherited the kind of mess that confronted Biden, and he has responded as FDR did: By throwing big money at problems. The ink on the $1.9 trillion pandemic relief plan is barely dry, and now the White House is set to unveil a $3 trillion infrastructure plan.
There’s also talk of reforming the biggest federal program of all: Social Security, which Roosevelt launched in 1935, and which is now paying out more cash than it’s bringing in. In Washington, the word “reform” is usually a code word for more spending.
Hmmm….I hope that will involve lifting the cap on the payroll tax so that rich people have to contribute more to Social Security and Medicare.
Biden’s style — specifically how he communicates with the American people — is also a page from the FDR playbook. Two months into his presidency, he has been surprisingly disciplined and economical with his words and appearances. The verbal gaffes that dogged him throughout his long career in Washington are nowhere to be seen. I’m sure he’ll make a boo-boo eventually (he’s Joe Biden, after all) but after four years of a president who lied about everything, a gaffe on Biden’s part these days will be seen as an honest mistake, humanizing, even charming to a certain degree.
Roosevelt is remembered for his famous Fireside Chats. Forgotten, however, is how infrequently he gave them. During his 12 years in office — bookended by America’s greatest 20th century crises, the Great Depression and World War II — he took to the airwaves just 30 times. Just two or three times a year. The rarity of his appearances amped up the drama and attention when he did speak.
But, unlike Biden so far, FDR gave lots of press conferences, Brandus writes. He recommends that Biden make his first formal appearance before the D.C. press corps as boring as possible.
The news media is trying to gin up the drama for this, and Biden will certainly be asked about tough issues that already are challenging his smooth operation — including immigration problems at the southern border and the mass shootings in the Atlanta area and Boulder, Colorado. But he knows this and will be prepared.
If Biden’s lucky, his first news conference will be a dull affair. It will also likely be a rare one. Why? Here’s the deal. With platforms like Twitter, Facebook and all the rest at their fingertips, modern-day presidents need reporters and the press less than ever. We saw this during the campaign, when Biden gave individual interviews but rarely held news conferences. The pandemic was a good excuse to pull back even further.
In other news, There’s been an attempted copycat supermarket shooting in Georgia; fortunately it was short-circuited.
Just two days after a mass shooting left 10 people dead at a Colorado supermarket, Atlanta police arrested a 22-year-old man who walked into a Publix at Atlantic Station with six guns and body armor.
Police were called to the grocery store on Atlantic Drive just after 1:30 p.m. Wednesday and met with a manager who told them a man came in with a rifle and headed straight toward a bathroom, authorities said.
“A witness observed the male and alerted store management, who then notified police,” Atlanta police spokesman Officer Anthony Grant told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Officers at the scene spotted the man leaving the bathroom and quickly took him into custody. According to police, his weapons included two long guns and four pistols, all of which were concealed.
Police identified the man as Rico Marley. He was booked into the Fulton County Jail on multiple charges of criminal attempt to commit a felony and weapons possession. Marley is scheduled for a first appearance before a judge Thursday morning.
The witness who saw 22 y/o Rico Marley in the bathroom with the AR-15 told us tonight he may have helped prevent a mass shooting. Charles Russell says the tragedy in Boulder was definitely on his mind. https://t.co/gMZBvbwWT8pic.twitter.com/3fdUm4u7Om
Xiao Zhen Xie, the 75-year-old woman who was punched by a white man in San Francisco — and then fought back by smacking him with a board — will not keep the nearly $1 million that has been donated for her medical expenses. Her grandson says Xie insists on donating the money to help defuse racism against the Asian American community.
“She insists on making this decision saying this issue is bigger than Her,” John Chen wrote in an update on the fundraising site GoFundMe.
Xiao Zhen Xie, 75, is recovering after she was punched by a man in San Francisco. Her family says that despite being hurt, she fought back to defend herself. Dennis O’Donnell/Screenshot by NPR
Xie was attacked on San Francisco’s Market Street last Wednesday, the morning after six women of Asian descent were killed in a shooting rampage in the Atlanta area — the worst incident in a broader spike in incidents that have targeted the Asian American and Pacific Islander community.
Xie, who is originally from China, had been waiting to cross the street when she was suddenly hit in the face. San Francisco Police say the suspect, Steven Jenkins, punched Xie minutes after he assaulted an 83-year-old Asian man. The suspect was being chased by a security guard when he hit Xie.
In the moment, her instinct was to fight back, her family told TV station KPIX. They said that Xie, while badly hurt, responded by grabbing a wooden board and hitting the man.
Jenkins, 39, was left with a bloody mouth and is facing charges of assault and elder abuse.
I’ll end with this argument that violence against women is a hate crime. Click the link to read the article at The Atlantic.
Many are outraged that officials appear hesitant to classify the Atlanta shootings as a hate crime. But the call for hate-crime prosecution would be better served by an understanding that such designations are often purely symbolic, @saigrundy writes: https://t.co/kx84Rqosnh
I’m sorry to say that I saw very little of the first night of the Democratic National Convention. I wasn’t interested in watching a lot of Republicans and Bernie Sanders. I wanted to see Michelle Obama’s speech, but I fell asleep before she came on.
Democrats kicked off their virtual nominating convention Monday with a focused denunciation of President Trump, showcasing dozens of testimonials that culminated in lancing criticism from former first lady Michelle Obama, who cast Trump as incapable of meeting America’s needs and said Joe Biden would usher in racial justice and ease the coronavirus pandemic.
In the centerpiece speech of the night, a searing indictment of her husband Barack Obama’s successor, Obama declared that Trump has mishandled the pandemic and failed to respond to outcries over the deaths of Black Americans. She warned that the nation would suffer more if he is elected to a second term.
“Let me be as honest and clear as I possibly can: Donald Trump is the wrong president for our country. He has had more than enough time to prove that he can do the job, but he is clearly in over his head. He cannot meet this moment. He simply cannot be who we need him to be for us,” she said, before quoting a line Trump used about covid-19 deaths in a recent interview: “It is what it is.”
She spoke passionately about protests over police brutality this year — and Trump’s response of declaring those in the streets to be anarchists.
“Here at home as George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and a never-ending list of innocent people of color continue to be murdered, stating the simple fact that a Black life matters is still met with derision from the nation’s highest office,” Obama said, wearing a necklace that read “Vote.” [….]
Other testimonials against Trump’s stewardship ranged from democratic socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to Ohio’s Republican former governor John Kasich, both of whom have pleaded with the country to set aside ideological differences to defeat Trump. The daughter of a covid-19 patient angrily blamed her father’s death on Trump during the broadcast, which repeatedly showed victims of the coronavirus.
The unprecedented virtual convention program, without crowds, floor fights or sign waving, reflected the extraordinary limits of current public health guidelines, as the country continues to keep socially distant in the face of a pandemic that has killed more than 167,000 Americans this year. Occasional live shots of Democratic delegates watching at home were cut in throughout the night to replicate some sense of a normal event.
Concluding the opening night of a Democratic Convention that until a few minutes earlier had felt overly platitudinous, centrist and bloodless, Michelle Obama delivered a speech that was the opposite—impassioned, uplifting and, at the same time, full of truths about America that this country rarely likes to acknowledge about itself. One of the most astounding moments in a speech filled with them came when the former first lady revisited a line that has been endlessly quoted since she uttered it 2016.
But this time around, the ex-FLOTUS—in tacit recognition of the toll that four years of Donald Trump’s bottom-feeding, “no low is too low” style of leadership has taken on the nation—necessarily amended her words to line up with the darkness of our times. It’s worth quoting her at length here: “Over the past four years, a lot of people have asked me, “When others are going so low, does going high still really work?” My answer: going high is the only thing that works, because when we go low, when we use those same tactics of degrading and dehumanizing others, we just become part of the ugly noise that’s drowning out everything else,” Obama stated. “But let’s be clear: going high does not mean putting on a smile and saying nice things when confronted by viciousness and cruelty…. Going high means standing fierce against hatred while remembering that we are one nation under God, and if we want to survive, we’ve got to find a way to live together and work together across our differences.” [….]
She did not mince words, and instead spoke honestly about the cruelty of this president and his abettors with a full-throatedness we haven’t seen from her in the past. This was Michelle going after Trump, and to a certain degree, the voters that would prop up this president, in a way that was both eloquent and frank, relatable and empathic—all while showing how the current president lacks all of those traits.
In fact, a whole section of the speech was essentially a damning laundry list of the ways in which Trump’s endless narcissism and incompetence have damaged the country. She noted the 150,000 dead and the economic devastation that have resulted from “a virus that this president downplayed for too long.” She called out how Trump has tarnished America’s image abroad, destroying “alliances championed by presidents like Reagan and Eisenhower.” And she went hard at Trump for the most overt characteristic of this presidency, its unchecked, vicious racism.
In other news and opinion . . .
A former Trump administration official endorsed Joe Biden yesterday.
After serving for more than two years in the Department of Homeland Security’s leadership during the Trump administration, I can attest that the country is less secure as a direct result of the president’s actions….
I wasn’t in a position to judge how his personal deficiencies affected other important matters, such as the environment or energy policy, but when it came to national security, I witnessed the damning results firsthand.
The president has tried to turn DHS, the nation’s largest law enforcement agency, into a tool used for his political benefit. He insisted on a near-total focus on issues that he said were central to his reelection — in particular building a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico. Though he was often talked out of bad ideas at the last moment, the president would make obviously partisan requests of DHS, including when he told us to close the California-Mexico border during a March 28, 2019, Oval Office meeting — it would be better for him politically, he said, than closing long stretches of the Texas or Arizona border — or to “dump” illegal immigrants in Democratic-leaning sanctuary cities and states to overload their authorities, as he insisted on several times.
Trump’s indiscipline was also a constant source of frustration. One day in February 2019, when congressional leaders were waiting for an answer from the White House on a pending deal to avoid a second government shutdown, the president demanded a DHS phone briefing to discuss the color of the wall. He was particularly interested in the merits of using spray paint and how the steel structure should be coated. Episodes like this occurred almost weekly.
The decision-making process was itself broken: Trump would abruptly endorse policy proposals with little or no consideration, by him or his advisers, of possible knock-on effects. That was the case in 2018 when then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced, at the White House’s urging, a “zero tolerance” policy to prosecute anyone who crossed the border illegally. The agencies involved were unprepared to implement the policy, causing a disastrous backlog of detentions that ultimately left migrant parents and their children separated.
Read the whole thing at the link if you haven’t already. Here’s video of Taylor’s endorsement:
NEW: Testimonial ad from Trump's Former DHS Chief of Staff @MilesTaylorUSA, declaring his support for Joe Biden and describing Trump's presidency as "terrifying" and "actively doing damage to our security."
On Sunday, Democrats moved up a request for DeJoy to testify to Monday, Aug. 24, calling it an “urgent” matter. The Oversight and Reform Committee hearing is likely to be tense, with Democrats loudly objecting to changes that have slowed mail delivery in numerous parts of the country amid President Donald Trump’s calls to restrict the use of mail-in ballots for the November election.
A number of Democrats have called on him to resign, and moderate House member Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), even said that he wanted DeJoy, a major Republican Party fundraiser, arrested by the House sergeant at arms if he didn’t agree to testify.
“Over the past several weeks, there have been startling new revelations about the scope and gravity of operational changes you are implementing at hundreds of postal facilities without consulting adequately with Congress, the Postal Regulatory Commission, or the Board of Governors,” House Oversight Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) wrote to DeJoy on Sunday, giving him a deadline of Monday to respond to the testimony invitation.
“Your testimony is particularly urgent given the troubling influx of reports of widespread delays at postal facilities across the country—as well as President Trump’s explicit admission last week that he has been blocking critical coronavirus funding for the Postal Service in order to impair mail-in voting efforts for the upcoming elections in November.”
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing Friday with Postmaster General Louis DeJoy on the U.S. Postal Service’s vote-by-mail financial requirements, according to two people familiar with the decision.
It will be DeJoy’s first opportunity to publicly answer lawmakers’ questions about the nation’s embattled mail service, which is experiencing delays as a result of policies DeJoy implemented cutting overtime and eliminating extra trips to ensure on-time mail delivery….
Democrats have alleged that DeJoy, a former Republican National Convention finance chairman, is taking steps that are causing dysfunction in the mail system and could wreak havoc in the presidential election….
The Postal Service is in the process of removing 671 high-speed mail-sorting machines nationwide this month, a process that will eliminate 21.4 million items per hour’s worth of processing capability from the agency’s inventory.
On Thursday and Friday, it began removing public collection boxes in parts of California, New York, Pennsylvania, Oregon and Montana. The agency said Friday that it would stop mailbox removals, which it said were routine, until after the election.
A group of Democratic state attorneys general are now in the final stages of preparing legal action against the Trump administration for recent cost-cutting changes made to the United States Postal Service, a lawsuit that one official said could demand a halt to any cutbacks that could impede mail-in voting.
As many as 10 state attorneys general are now involved, two state officials involved in the effort told ABC News. Among them is New York’s Letitia James, who called recent changes at the postal agency “deeply disturbing” in a statement released Monday.
The suit is expected to mount two major constitutional challenges to the recent cutbacks, according to one of the officials, a state government attorney. States will assert that the federal government is trying to impede their constitutional right to oversee their own elections. And they will argue that the Trump administration is interfering with every American’s individual right to participate in the election.
The lawsuit will also argue that Postmaster General Louis DeJoy failed to follow administrative procedures when he made cuts to overtime and decommissioned equipment – steps the states will ask the courts to halt, the attorney said….
The attorneys general from Connecticut and New York have joined a growing list of state leaders including those from Virginia, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Minnesota and Washington — all Democrats — in discussing how to sue the administration, sources said. Those conversations remain ongoing.
I’ll add more news links in the comment thread. I hope you all have a nice Tuesday!
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On Thursday and Friday, Dakinikat and I wrote about Trump’s assault on the U.S. Postal Service, in hopes of suppressing Democratic votes in November. Last night the story began building into a five alarm fire of public outrage. Rachel Maddow focused on the story on her show last night.
The U.S. Postal Service postpones the removal of drop boxes until after the election, following backlash over their abrupt disappearance in Montana, @Maddow reports.
"They were working on doing this nationally, but now with the pushback they're going to put that on hold." pic.twitter.com/k19lSBJXZD
Listen to President Trump long enough, and, despite his penchant for falsehood, you’ll eventually hear some unvarnished truth.
That happened Thursday when he stated his intentions clearly in an interview with Fox Business Network. He doesn’t want to approve billions in emergency funding for the cash-strapped and struggling U.S. Postal Service for a simple reason: Democrats want to expand mail-in voting during the pandemic.
His words were stark: “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.” He added that holding back funding means “they can’t have universal mail-in voting, they just can’t have it.”
In other words, he doesn’t want American citizens, fearful of exposure to the coronavirus, to have every opportunity to vote in November.
It’s not his first effort to cripple the Postal Service, one of the most essential — and popular — institutions in America. His statements Thursday came after he installed a Republican megadonor, Louis DeJoy, as the new postmaster general. In turn, DeJoy has unseated dozens of veteran postal officials. He and his minions have banned overtime and told carriers to leave mail behind at distribution centers, letting it pile up for days. Sorting machines that speed mail processing have been removed.
“Things are already going wrong,” Philip F. Rubio, an expert on the Postal Service and history professor at North Carolina A&T State University (and a former letter carrier himself), told Politico. There are “widespread mail slowdowns of all kinds of mail — first-class, marketing mail, parcels. Even the Veterans’ Administration has complained that veterans are not getting their medications on time.”
Read Sullivan’s commentary on the media coverage and why they need to “turn up the heat” at the WaPo link.
Today the news is full of stories about Trump’s attempted sabotage of a beloved American institution that is enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. As Maddow said last night, “pressure works.
In a statement Friday night, Rod Spurgeon — a USPS spokesperson for the service’s the Western region — told CNN that the service will stop the removal of letter collection boxes in 16 states and parts of two others until after the election.
That means, according to Spurgeon, the USPS will stop collecting the letter collection boxes only in: Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Idaho, Montana, South Dakota, North Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Iowa, Alaska, Nebraska and small parts of Wisconsin and Missouri.
It’s not clear if the removal freeze would go into effect across the nation. Kim Frum — a spokeswoman for USPS based at headquarters — could not say if the freeze would go into effect across the country and would not comment on the freeze in the Western region.
Officials say that in the last week the USPS has removed letter collection boxes in at least four states: New York, Oregon, Montana and Indiana. The USPS has also begun notifying postal workers in at least three states — West Virginia, Florida and Missouri — that they will start to reduce their retail operating hours, according to union officials.
BIG SANDY, Mont. – U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, Sen. Steve Daines, Rep. Greg Gianforte and Gov. Steve Bullock asked for answers from the U.S. Postal Service Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy, after the USPS removed blue mail drop-off boxes in some Montana towns.
Sen. Tester confirmed the reports of the U.S. Postal Service’s removing of the blue mail drop-off boxes throughout Montana on Friday, releasing the following statement:
“Since ringing the alarm on the removal of collection boxes from communities across Montana, it has become clear that these reports are accurate. These actions set my hair on fire and they have real life implications for folks in rural America and their ability to access critical postal services like paying their bills and voting in upcoming elections. Postmaster General DeJoy must immediately provide Montanans with an explanation for the actions of the USPS, or he can do it under oath before a Senate Committee.”
Sen. Tester and Sen. Daines also sent out statements saying the USPS has paused its removal of mail collection boxes in towns across Montana.
New Jersey Representative Bill Pascrell, Jr. made a criminal referral to the New Jersey Attorney General last night. Pascrell appeared last night on MSNBC’s The Eleventh Hour with substitute host Ali Velshi.
Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ) made a criminal referral to the New Jersey Attorney General on Friday night, asking him to impanel a grand jury to look at possible breach of state election laws by President Trump, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and others for “their accelerating arson of the post office,” he said. Alarming headlines have emerged in recent days as many states prepare to facilitate widespread mail balloting due to the coronavirus pandemic. President Trump openly admitted he was withholding federal aid from the postal service to prevent mail-in voting, and USPS has notified 46 states and D.C. that it will struggle to deliver some mail ballots on time.
Pascrell’s announcement came after USPS’s internal watchdog said it would review policy changes and potential ethical conflicts under DeJoy, a Trump donor who owns a $30 million stake in a competitor to USPS. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and other Democratic lawmakers requested a review into DeJoy’s actions, like eliminating overtime and slowing certain types of mail delivery, and whether he “met all ethics requirements.”
The internal watchdog at the United States Postal Service is reviewing controversial policy changes recently imposed under Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, and is also examining DeJoy’s compliance with federal ethics rules, according to a spokeswoman for the USPS inspector general and an aide to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who requested the review.
Lawmakers from both parties and postal union leaders have sounded alarms over disruptive changes instituted by DeJoy this summer, including eliminating overtime and slowing some mail delivery. Democrats claim he is intentionally undermining postal service operations to sabotage mail-in voting in the November election — a charge he denies.
Agapi Doulaveris, a spokeswoman for the USPS watchdog, told CNN in an email, “We have initiated a body of work to address the concerns raised, but cannot comment on the details.”
Last week, Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, and eight other Democratic lawmakers asked the inspector general to launch an inquiry into DeJoy on a number of fronts, including the nationwide policy changes he’s made since taking over in June, as well as whether DeJoy has “met all ethics requirements.” [….]
It’s unclear if the inspector general has launched a full-scale investigation into possible politicization at USPS by DeJoy, a Trump ally and Republican donor, or if it’s just reviewing the matter for Congress.
CNN first reported earlier this week that DeJoy still owns at least a $30 million equity stake in his former company — a USPS contractor — and that he recently bought stock options for Amazon, a USPS competitor. These holdings likely create a major conflict of interest, ethics experts told CNN, though DeJoy and USPS maintain that he has complied with all federal requirements.
At The Week, Ryan Cooper writes: Trump’s Post Office meddling is plainly illegal.
Trump now openly admits he is sandbagging the Post Office to prevent Americans from voting by mail. Obstructing the ability to vote of the American people is a crime at the federal level and in every state. Not for the first time, the president has confessed to criminal acts on television.
First, the president does not get to prevent certain kinds of voting just because he alleges there is fraud happening. Election administration is largely governed at the state level, and several states — like Washington, Oregon, Colorado, and Utah — have had universal mail-in voting as the foundation of their systems for years (where it has worked just fine). Trump’s throwing a monkey wrench into the gears of the Post Office is a likely unconstitutional infringement of state authority to run their own elections, in addition to being directly criminal (see below).
Second, Trump is lying. We know he’s lying because countless studies have found mail-in voter fraud to be virtually nonexistent compared to the number of ballots cast, because it doesn’t even make sense as a way to commit election theft, and most of all because Trump himself has voted through the mail repeatedly — in 2017 and 2018 in New York, and just this week for the primary election in Florida. His argument is a scam and obviously so.
Third, we can also see what the game is by how new postmaster general Louis DeJoy, who met with Trump last week and is undeniably a partisan lackey, is slashing the Post Office’s baseline capacity. As David Dayen argues at The American Prospect, even 100 percent mail-in voting would barely burden the agency at all, given that it delivers 182 million pieces of mail every day (or used to, anyway), and most ballots have a very short transit route — from county election offices to homes and back again. That is why DeJoy is ending postal carrier overtime, destroying automated letter-sorting machines that cost millions of dollars, and pulling up hundreds of outdoor mailboxes. Voting by mail is so trivial for the USPS that it is necessary to seriously damage the agency to render it incapable of carrying it out. Sure enough, the agency has already warned that mail-in ballots could fail to be delivered in time in nearly every state….
The point of hamstringing the Post Office is to prevent as many people from voting by mail as possible, because 72 percent of Democrats say they are likely to vote by mail, as compared to 22 percent of Republicans. Trump and his stooge are using their federal power to forcibly disenfranchise American citizens. We have it straight from the horse’s mouth.
Let’s compare that behavior to 18 U.S. Code § 594, which states: “Whoever intimidates, threatens, coerces, or attempts to intimidate, threaten, or coerce, any other person for the purpose of interfering with the right of such other person to vote or to vote as he may choose” in a federal election faces fines and up to a year in prison. (By the way, someone who “knowingly and willfully obstructs or retards the passage of the mail” also faces fines and up to six months in prison.)
Cooper writes that there are also state laws against “stealing elections.” Read the whole thing at the link.
Let’s all not sprain something pretending that this is simply some “sweeping organizational and policy overhaul” wha-dee-doo-dah. It’s ratfcking under color of law, pure and simple—a more complicated version of the “accidental” Election Day water-main break in front of the mayoral challenger’s headquarters. (Hi, Jim Curley!) Except, of course, this little monkey-wrenching keeps veterans from getting their prescription medicines, and rural customers from sending or receiving their packages. It also is a clear violation of the president*’s oath of office. He promised to take care that even the postal laws are faithfully executed. That doesn’t mean having your fat-cat apparatchik slow-walk the U.S. Mail to get you re-elected. Impeachable offenses are exhausting to carry around.
A group of protesters staged a “noise demonstration” Saturday morning outside of United States Postal Service Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s home in Northwest D.C. amid allegations of limiting mail-in voting for the 2020 Presidential election.
The demonstration was organized by the direct action group Shut Down D.C. They gathered in Kalorama Park in Adams Morgan on the corner of Kalorama Road and 19th Street and marched towards DeJoy’s home.
Members of the group came together to protest against DeJoy’s leadership ahead of mail-in voting for the 2020 Presidential election.
The organization believes DeJoy is “dismantling” the U.S. Postal Service in favor of President Donald Trump’s re-election. They said his actions contribute to voter suppression.
“DeJoy has fired or reassigned much of the existing USPS leadership and ordered the removal of mail sorting machines that are fundamental to the functioning of the postal service. Meanwhile, mail delivery is slowing down under other decisions made by DeJoy, such as eliminating overtime for postal workers,” the group said in a statement.
Let’s hope all this outrage will continue until Trump and DeJoy are forced to back down and/or are prosecuted. Of course that won’t stop Trump from trying to steal the election. Democrats are going to have to fight back like never before.
Have a great weekend, Sky Dancers!! Take care and be kind to yourselves, other people, and animals.
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