In a three-page letter to Barger, Democratic Reps. Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois and Katie Porter of California cited “correspondence former USPS officials” that described Barger’s role in offering up DeJoy to become postmaster general, succeeding USPS veteran Megan Brennan in the role. Barger was the Board of Governors’ leader of the search process. The lawmakers said putting forward a candidate outside the search process was a break from typical practice.
“The appointment of Mr. Louis DeJoy as Postmaster General was highly irregular, and we are concerned that his candidacy may have been influenced by political motivations,” Krishnamoorthi said in a statement.
Shortly after the public disclosure of the letter, David Williams, the former vice chairman of the U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors, alleged the Trump administration is trying to politicize the agency during a hearing convened by the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
“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 believe would turn the Postal Service into a political tool, ending its long history as an apolitical public infrastructure.”
Williams said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was leading the attempts to politicize the agency, and Mnuchin insisted all Republican appointees “come to his office and kiss the ring and receive his blessing.” Williams alleged Mnuchin wanted to confirm a wide swath of agreements within the USPS, as terms for receiving the line of credit.
“Clearly the president was determined that the Postal Service should inflict harm on Amazon,” Williams said at the hearing.
The Treasury Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
But White House spokesperson Brian Morgenstern said in a statement that “President Trump has established a Postal Reform task force to make recommendations for improving the financial future of the USPS.”
“He has also encouraged the Post Office to raise its package delivery prices to ensure that the USPS will be more solvent in the future, and to protect the jobs of hardworking American postal workers,” he said. The White House statement did not address Williams’ charges of politicization of the agency.
The revelations come amid efforts by congressional Democrats to learn more about DeJoy’s hiring in May when, amid the coronavirus pandemic, he began to implement sharp policy changes, from limiting overtime to dismantling sorting machines — the effect of which Democrats said could disenfranchise thousands of voters. DeJoy is slated to testify to the Republican-led Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee on Friday, and to the House Oversight Committee on Monday.
Capitol Hill Democrats, led by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, have sought insight about the search process that led to DeJoy’s selection, complaining that the Postal Service had restricted the national firm, Russell Reynolds Associates, from speaking to lawmakers.
In their letter, Krishnamoorthi and Porter indicate they also contacted Williams, who sat on the board with Barger until he resigned in April, just before the announcement of DeJoy’s selection, amid concerns about politicization of the Postal Service. Barger told The New York Times earlier this week that he didn’t recall Williams ever raising concerns about DeJoy.
“I don’t recall him ever having objected to anything,” Mr. Barger said, “or I would have asked him why. And it would have been considered.”
Asked to respond to Barger’s comments, Williams told the lawmakers “I had expressed concerns after each of the interviews with Mr. Louis DeJoy. I urged that a background investigation be conducted. And when I resigned, I cited it as one of my reasons for submitting my resignation to Chairman Robert Duncan.”
Barger did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Krishnamoorthi and Porter are asking Barger to provide information to their panel by Aug. 27, including whether he recommended DeJoy before learning of Russell Reynolds’ recommended names and whether any Republican Party leaders or senior Trump administration officials played a role in boosting DeJoy’s candidacy for the post.
At the Congressional Progressive Caucus hearing, Williams said he resigned from his role at the Postal Service because he “was convinced that its independent role had been marginalized and that representations regarding an independent Postal Service for the nation were no longer truthful. I felt the public was owed the truth in this matter.”
Daniel Lippman contributed to this report.