By MIKE LEVINE and LUCIEN BRUGGEMAN, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) — After a week of Democratic lawmakers calling for his resignation, the embattled head of the U.S. Postal Service, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, on Friday will face a public grilling for the first time since he began his short and controversial tenure.
A former logistics executive and longtime Republican financier, DeJoy arrived at the postal service in June, and he almost immediately set about enacting a series of cost-cutting initiatives that he said would streamline the ailing agency’s dwindling finances.
But those new initiatives reportedly caused delivery delays and coincided with a full-on attack on “mail-in voting” from President Donald Trump, prompting accusations that the administration was seeking to undermine voter confidence of the Postal Service ahead of November’s presidential election.
Earlier this week, DeJoy succumbed to public pressure and vowed to suspend his cost-cutting initiatives until after the election — but Democrats said his announcement did not go far enough.
The walk-back comes as Trump continues to draw a distinction between “mail-in voting” and “absentee voting,” promoting unfounded claims that “mail-in voting” systems are “riddled by fraud and corruption.” Specifically, he has said states that employ “mail-in voting” by proactively sending ballots to all registered voters are not prepared to properly vet the ballots that are then returned.
On Friday, Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Homeland Security and Government Reform Committee will press DeJoy to detail his latest actions and explain how his agency plans to handle an expected surge in ballots sent through the mail.
“What I think we should be demanding is full answers on what [DeJoy] has done, why he has done it, and a commitment that he will not just slow or tap the brakes … but that he will throw this thing into reverse and he will restore the delivery standards that he has interfered with,” Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., said Wednesday on MSNBC.
Both the Postal Service and the White House have denied any intention to undermine mail-in voting, despite the president’s repeated and unfounded allegations that it will lead to election fraud.
On Wednesday, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany called the postal service controversy a “manufactured crisis” contrived by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other congressional Democrats.
Even so, the postal service has already warned 46 states and Washington, D.C., that their vote-by-mail rules are “incongruous” with its delivery service standards and may result in uncounted ballots, adding another layer of complexity to an election in which more Americans than ever are expected to cast their ballots by mail.
Critics say the changes enacted by DeJoy, which include cuts to overtime pay and foregoing additional pick-up and delivery trips, have slowed mail service across the country. These reported delays prompted bipartisan calls to reverse course.
Despite announcing his intention to halt some of the initiatives, DeJoy remains the target of both congressional scrutiny and legal action.
On Tuesday, 14 states filed a federal lawsuit against the Trump administration, alleging that the Postal Service’s changes violate voters’ constitutional rights, failed to follow proper procedures, and should be blocked. In a statement responding to news of the lawsuit, the White House said any such “politically motivated lawsuits are not rooted in giving Americans the power of the vote.” Several other states are expected to file a second federal lawsuit similarly challenging the changes.
According to the suits, DeJoy failed to follow required administrative procedures when implementing sweeping cuts to service, rendering them unlawful.
Democratic lawmakers in both the House and Senate this week called for DeJoy’s resignation. Nearly 100 congressional Democrats called on the Postal Service Board of Governors to “immediately remove” him, claiming he “has used his time as Postmaster General to sabotage the United States Postal Service and he must be removed immediately to protect this critical institution.”
On Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called on the Postal Service Board of Governors to hand over information about DeJoy’s hiring, “so that Americans … could know whether Mr. DeJoy was selected for improper reasons of politics of patronage,” according to a letter he wrote to the board’s chairman.
A week earlier, a group of Democrats led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., asked the Postal Service’s inspector general to investigate the cost-cutting endeavors and DeJoy’s financial holdings, calling into question whether he had “met all ethics requirements regarding disclosure, divestment, and recusal from decisions in which he may have a conflict.”
In a statement to ABC News, Warren’s office confirmed that the inspector general is “investigating all aspects of our request.” A spokesperson for the inspector general said their office is “conducting a body of work to address concerns raised.”
Friday’s hearing will not be the last Congress will see of DeJoy. He and Robert Duncan, the chairman of the Board of Governors, are scheduled to appear before a House committee on Monday.
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