Trump Ties Postal Service Funding to Vote-by-Mail

(Bloomberg) — President Donald Trump Thursday directly tied his opposition to a proposed $25 billion financial lifeline for the Postal Service to his criticism of efforts to encourage mail-in voting during the coronavirus pandemic.

a man standing in front of a brick building: A United States Postal Service (USPS) letter carrier wearing a protective mask.

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A United States Postal Service (USPS) letter carrier wearing a protective mask.

“One of the reasons the post office needs that much money is to have all of these millions of ballots coming in from nowhere and nobody knows from where,” Trump said at a White House news conference.

If the Postal Service doesn’t get the money, he added, “how can you have those votes? What that would mean is that people would have to go to the polls and vote, like the old days, like two years ago, three years ago, four years ago.”

In an interview earlier Thursday with Fox Business’s Maria Bartiromo, the president said Democrats “need that money in order to have the post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots.” And that without it “that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting because they’re not equipped to have it.”

QuickTake: Why the U.S. Mail Is 2020 Presidential Campaign Issue

The remarks throw yet another obstacle in negotiations over a coronavirus stimulus bill. Democrats have been seeking $3.6 billion in election funding and $25 billion for the Postal Service, but a Republican counteroffer included neither and negotiations have stalled.

The president’s attacks on vote-by-mail have raised concerns among Democrats that he will question the validity of an election that will see a surge in mail-in ballots.

The campaign of his opponent, Joe Biden, harshly criticized the president’s position, with spokesman Andrew Bates saying in a statement that Trump is “sabotaging a basic service” because “he wants to deprive Americans of their fundamental right to vote safely” during the pandemic.

The remarks also undermined statements by Trump-appointed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a major Republican donor, that his recent decisions to bar overtime and other policy and personnel changes would have no effect on vote-by-mail. He has said the moves were only intended to streamline services and cut costs.

Slower delivery times could have a significant effect on mail-in voting as many states require ballots be in the hands of elections officials by the time polls close on Election Day. In 2016, roughly one in four rejected mail-in ballots were set aside because they arrived too late, according to the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission.

More than three-fourths of Americans will be able to cast a mail-in ballot this fall, either because their state is conducting an all-mail election, allows no-excuse absentee voting or will accept the coronavirus as an excuse this year.

The president, who has repeatedly claimed without evidence that vote-by-mail is rife with fraud and hurts Republican candidates, backtracked recently, saying he supported it in his home state of Florida.

(Updates with Trump comments in second, third paragraphs)

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