Post Office Controversy: California's Attorney General Says Confidence In White House 'Is Shot'

At a news conference Tuesday in Burbank, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), right, speaks with a constituent. Schiff is among many lawmakers who held events or press conferences today to talk about problems with mail delivery. (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP via Getty Images)

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After growing controversy over changes in how the U.S. Post Office functions, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy released a statement Tuesday saying:

To avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail, I am suspending these initiatives until after the election is concluded.

DeJoy said that he can assure Americans of the following:

  • Retail hours at post offices will not change
  • Mail processing equipment and blue collection boxes will remain where they are
  • No mail processing facilities will be closed
  • Overtime has and will continue to be approved as needed

DeJoy has already been called to testify in front of the Senate this Friday, and the House of Representatives next Monday. His statement Tuesday came five days after President Trump told a Fox Business News host that he opposed Democrats' efforts to get more funding for the U.S. Postal Service because "they need that money in order to have the post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots."

A Martínez, the host of KPCC's Take Two, spoke with California Attorney General Xavier Becerra shortly after DeJoy's statement was released.

In the statement, DeJoy said he will suspend until after the election the "significant reforms" that "predate my arrival at the Postal Service." Here's what Becerra had to say about it.

A Martínez: How are you feeling in the wake of this statement?

Attorney General Xavier Becerra: First, I guess we should welcome back the Postmaster General in the Trump administration to the real world, where it matters if you follow the law. But, two, this is just the latest statement by this administration. So we're going to be very cautious. As I usually say, I don't track what the president or his administration say, I watch what they do. And that's why we're ready to file a lawsuit if they were to retract this latest statement by the Postmaster General.

So will you retract the lawsuit, as of now?

We're working as a team. We're working closest right now with the state of Pennsylvania. But a number of states are prepared to sue. I think we're all looking at this language. We're all going to see where it takes us. But again, we're not going to jeopardize the vote simply because the administration is now articulating something different. We're going to watch what they're doing. Are they removing box collections for votes? Are they trying to keep people in the postal service from administering the mail and shipping it out and delivering it? Or what are they doing? Not just what they're saying.

It sounds like you're still very wary of this statement and what the intentions behind it are.

We've had to sue this administration 95 times to get them to follow the law. You would understand then why I'm a little concerned and skeptical about what they say and why we depend on what they do.

In a letter to a postal staffers last week, Postmaster General DeJoy said his policies have brought "unintended consequences that impacted overall service levels." Now we have that statement from him today. In your view, is there any chance that the changes he's implemented, and their effects, were accidental? Or are you pretty confident that he intentionally sought to stymie the Postal Service?

Wow, I don't know in what world [one] could be so blind as to not know the consequences of what you were doing. We always are gracious and try to give people the benefit of the doubt, but I think this administration has really worn out its welcome with all these excuses. Listen, I take Mr. DeJoy at his word today. I wouldn't have wanted to take him for his word yesterday or any for the days before.

But it's not a matter of taking his word for it. It's a matter of making sure we're on top of it to make sure that their actions reflect what the law requires. And that's what we'll just do, is just make sure that what the Postal Service does is what the law expects.

Let's assume that all of the things Postmaster General de Joy mentions in his statement happen, that he sticks to what he wrote. Is the damage done already when it comes to the post office and the way people see mail-in ballots?

Confidence in this administration doing what it's supposed to is shot. The ability of Postmaster General DeJoy to do what he's supposed to is gone. But the confidence in the men and women who work in the Postal Service, who — day in, day out — deliver on time and through rain and all the rest? I think everybody knows that we respect the folks who do the work, and they have never been the problem.

So if Postmaster General DeJoy were to get out of the way, I think all of us would feel comfortable. The thing is, we just can't — given this administration and this president — expect that to be the case. We're going to make sure it's the case by ensuring that the law is there to protect people's vote. There's nothing more important than the franchise, and I think we all have obligations to make sure it is protected.

So for people that are going to rely on mail-in ballots this election year, what's your message to them? If no one wants to go into a polling place because they're afraid of possibly infecting themselves or any kind of other fear, what do you have to say to people who are planning on using mail-in ballots?

Vote. And vote as if your life and your future depended on it, because it does. And vote in person or vote by mail. I guarantee that in California we're going to do everything to make sure that when you vote, your vote will get counted, regardless of what this administration does. Either because we keep him to task under the law or because we make sure that in California we've got everything in place to make sure that those votes will get counted. But, certainly, if you want to stay safe and away from COVID-19 and you decide to vote at home through the mail, we're here to tell you that it will be safe and it will be counted.

Top Democrats have called for DeJoy to resign. Do you support those calls?

You know that that's not really up to me. But I will tell you this, he was AWOL when we needed him most. He has disrupted service in a way that's been harmful. It's not just the vote. It's prescription drug medication that gets mailed. It's people's paychecks. It's Social Security checks that are stuck in the mail. All those things show that he's just not fit to be in a position where time and delivery count. So should he be removed? I'll leave that to the congressional folks and D.C. folks. All I know is that California, we're going to make sure we protect people's right here to get their mail delivered on time.

Take Two airs at 2 p.m. on weekdays at 89.3. You can also stream the show on your smart speakers or at KPCC.org.

Listen to the interview here:


California voters:

  • All registered voters in California will receive a mail-in ballot for the November election under a new law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in June.
  • All ballot envelopes in California are pre-paid postage.
  • Ballots postmarked on or before election day will have their votes counted under state law — as long as they arrive within 17 days.
In L.A. County all voters are are free to choose how they vote, either by mail, or by dropping their filled-in ballot at any voting center, or by voting in person at any voting center. Read more about voting in L.A. County: How Voting Will Work For The 2020 Election