Former President Barack Obama criticized President Donald Trump, accusing him of attempting to “kneecap” the United States Postal Service (USPS).
According to Vox, Obama made the comments in an interview released Friday, which was unusual for the former president, who has stayed out of the political spotlight.
“What we’ve seen, in a way that is unique to modern political history, is a president who is explicit in trying to discourage people from voting,” Obama said on Cadence13’s Campaign HQ podcast in a discussion with his former campaign manager David Plouffe. “What we’ve never seen before is a president say, ‘I’m going to try to actively kneecap the Postal Service to [discourage] voting and I will be explicit about the reason I’m doing it.’”
“That’s sort of unheard of, right?” he added. “And we also have not had an election in the midst of a pandemic that is still deadly and killing a lot of people, and we still don’t know the long-term side effects of contracting the illness.”
The comments came days after President Trump said he opposes providing additional funding for the USPS. The agency announced in May that it will run out of funds by June if it didn’t receive a huge influx of cash. Now, the USPS is cash-strapped and says it cannot deal with mail-in ballots.
Politicians, celebrities, and others have accused President Trump and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, who has between $30 million and $75 million in assets in postal service competitors, of trying to rig the election and abolish the post office.
Trump told Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo that he rejected the Democrats’ proposal for emergency funding for election in negotiations for a coronavirus relief bill because it would help prevent “universal mail-in voting.”
Democrats “want three-and-a-half billion dollars for something that will turn out to be fraudulent, that’s election money, basically … [And] they want 25 billion dollars — billion — for the Post Office,” Trump said.
“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,” Trump continued. “By the way, those are just two items, but if they don’t get those two items, that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting.”
Trump has tried to stop mail-in voting despite using it himself, describing it as significantly vulnerable to fraud despite providing no evidence to back up the claim. Voting rights advocates say mail-in voting is a secure method when funded properly.
The USPS Is Essentially Broke
Experts say the USPS is on its last legs financially and the policies that DeJoy has implemented have made things worse. Since becoming the Postmaster General earlier this year, DeJoy has canceled overtime, prohibited carriers from waiting for delayed shipments, and made employees leave the mail at distribution centers if picking it up would delay them from their routes.
The USPS warned 46 states and Washington D.C. last month that millions of voters could effectively be disenfranchised because their mail-in ballots might not be processed speedily enough for November’s elections—even if voters follow all their state’s election rules.
The USPS told 40 of those states that “long-standing deadlines for requesting, returning or counting ballots were ‘incongruous’ with mail service and that voters who send ballots in close to those deadlines may become disenfranchised,” according to The Washington Post.
Voting experts say up to 60% of Americans could vote by mail this election due to the coronavirus pandemic. In a typical election, up to a quarter of Americans use mail-in ballots.