It is absurd to ask whether Postmaster General Louis DeJoy should remain in a position where this increasingly scandal-plagued mega-donor to Donald Trump’s campaigns might further mangle the postal system on the eve of an election in which the president’s fate could rise or fall based on voting by mail.
The postmaster general’s scheming to dismantle the Postal Service has been well documented. “Postmaster General DeJoy’s mid-July implementation of a series of new policies slowed down and delayed the mail,” notes Mark Dimondstein, the president of the American Postal Workers Union. “These included the arbitrary canceling of overtime, limiting mail transportation runs, and demands that everything run on time, even if it meant leaving large quantities of mail undelivered.”
The postmaster general’s conflicts of interest have been well documented. “The USPS paid XPO Logistics $14,000,000 in just the past 10 weeks. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has up to $75,000,000 invested in XPO Logistics,” explains Public Citizen. “This is a blatant rigging of the public sphere for direct and substantial private gain.”
Now comes explosive evidence of campaign finance violations that point to corruption on a scale that could land DeJoy in jail. An investigation by The Washington Post, which was reported over the weekend, reveals that
Louis DeJoy’s prolific campaign fundraising, which helped position him as a top Republican power broker in North Carolina and ultimately as head of the U.S. Postal Service, was bolstered for more than a decade by a practice that left many employees feeling pressured to make political contributions to GOP candidates—money DeJoy later reimbursed through bonuses, former employees say.
What DeJoy’s employees describe is known as a “straw donor” scheme. It is a violation of federal law and of state law in North Carolina, where DeJoy is alleged to have committed the crimes. “Such federal violations carry a five-year statute of limitations,” observes the Post. “There is no statute of limitations in North Carolina for felonies, including campaign finance violations.”
North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein says the latest allegation against DeJoy “merits investigations.”
So the postmaster general, who was already in a lot of trouble, is now in a lot more trouble. And DeJoy’s problems extend beyond the legal realm. When the postmaster general testified last month at a House hearing that examined allegations that he had deliberately undermined the postal service in the run-up to the election, Representative Jim Cooper, a Tennessee Democrat, asked, “Did you pay back several of your top executives for contributing to Trump’s campaign by bonus-ing or rewarding them?” The postmaster general replied, “That’s an outrageous claim, sir, and I resent it.” Then he said, “The answer is ‘no.’”
If the revelations in the Post story are right, DeJoy lied to Congress.
There will, necessarily and undoubtedly, be further investigations. Yet, as the evidence of DeJoy’s high crimes and misdemeanors mounts, the most urgent question is how to deal with the threat he poses to the Postal Service and to American democracy.
Representative Ro Khanna, a key member of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, has the answer.
“DeJoy,” says Khanna, “must be removed immediately.”
DeJoy does not appear to be inclined to resign, and he still has some defenders in Congress—like Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican.
But the House has options. Oversight and Government Reform Committee chair Carolyn Maloney of New York says, “If these allegations are true, Mr. DeJoy could face criminal exposure—not only for his actions in North Carolina, but also for lying to our committee under oath.”
Maloney adds: “We will be investigating this issue, but I believe the Board of Governors must take emergency action to immediately suspend Mr. DeJoy, who they never should have selected in the first place.”
Unfortunately, as CNBC reports, “five of the six members of the board, including Chairman Robert Duncan, are linked to GOP and Trump circles through various campaign, legal and financial connections.”
So the resignation and suspension options may be off the table—for now. And prosecution at the federal or state level takes time.
That means that impeachment, the constitutional remedy for precisely this circumstance, should be on the table. DeJoy is a “civil officer” and is clearly impeachable under Article 2, Section 4. He stands accused of committing crimes and of lying to Congress. There is more than enough evidence that he has abused his position in order to benefit a political ally and benefactor, Donald Trump. In addition, there is daunting evidence that he has done harm to an agency that was outlined in Article 1, Section 8.
Congress has always been cautious about using the impeachment power for its intended purpose of holding the powerful to account for wrongdoing—and for preventing additional wrongdoing. That caution may be greater now that the House’s impeachment of President Trump, however legitimate, was upended by the Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and the partisan cabal he leads.
In this particular case, however, a House impeachment vote could serve the consequential purpose of forcing members of the chamber to take a stand on whether DeJoy should be removed. The Postal Service is incredibly popular, and it is especially popular in rural areas where Republican members of the House are running for reelection this fall. That might force a few of them, perhaps many of them, to abandon DeJoy—and it would identify those who refused to do so as reckless partisans who would sacrifice the Postal Service to serve Donald Trump’s ends.
If impeachment is too bold a move for House Democrats—and boldness at election time is not something the current Democratic leadership is known for—there is a final alternative. At the very least, the House could vote to censure or rebuke DeJoy or, even better, to demand his resignation. A simple resolution along these lines would highlight urgent concerns regarding DeJoy’s continued service. While it is true that a resolution censuring, rebuking, or otherwise challenging DeJoy—which has no basis in the Constitution or the rules of the House—is insufficient to hold the postmaster general to account, the vote on such a resolution could hold to account the congressional Republicans who are covering for him. That might create just enough pressure on DeJoy—who no one doubts is an exceptionally loyal Republican—to take the hint and resign.