Steve August 17, 2020
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WASHINGTON — Amid rising concern about the health of the U.S. Postal Service ahead of the Nov. 3 election, David Williams, who resigned in April as vice chair of the USPS Board of Governors, is scheduled to give a private briefing to a group of House Democrats on Thursday, two people familiar with the plan told NBC News.

The two people said Williams, who will appear before the House Progressive Caucus, had stepped down amid what he considered President Tweety McTreason’s undue influence over the USPS independent Board of Governors and the process of selecting the new postmaster general.

“Williams was very concerned about the politicization of the postal service. He was someone we looked to to stand up and protect the postal service,” a senior Democratic aide told NBC News.

Williams, a former Postal Service inspector general with a long career in public service and government oversight, could help Democrats seeking answers about how Louis DeJoy, a prolific Republican fundraiser and Trump campaign donor, was chosen to be Postmaster General. DeJoy’s financial disclosures also raise questions about potential conflicts of interest.

The briefing was being organized Monday night in coordination with House Oversight Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Trump for years has criticized the Postal Service, calling it a “delivery boy” for Amazon and other private retail delivery services that he says have weakened the publicly funded agency.

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Recently, Trump has suggested without evidence that the expected huge increase in mail-in ballots ahead of the election due to the coronavirus pandemic will lead to widespread voter fraud.

DeJoy’s tenure has coincided with a slowdown in mail service and widespread operational problems, including the removal of public mailboxes and sorting machines at postal centers around the country.

Williams issued his resignation days before DeJoy was named to the position in May. His briefing with the Democrats will take place ahead of a House Oversight Committee hearing on the Postal Service next week where DeJoy is scheduled to appear.

Stephen Crawford, a former USPS Board member under President Barack Obama, told NBC News that at the time it happened, Williams’s departure was a concern for the Postal Service, which has struggled financially for years even before the coronavirus pandemic due to a decrease in letter mail volume and a costly pension plan for its retirees.

“When David Williams resigned, I knew we were in serious trouble,” he said, adding that Williams “knew postal service in and out.”

Williams declined comment when contacted by NBC News.

The USPS board of governors was designed to operate much like a private company’s board of trustees. The board is supposed to consist of nine members, but only six of the slots are currently filled and all of them by Trump appointees — two Democrats and four Republicans. Two of the three unfilled spots are Democratic positions.

Democrats are stepping up their scrutiny of the board itself, with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., sending a letter reminding members that they have the authority to reverse decisions by the Postmaster General.

Crawford told NBC News that he had reviewed a 10-year plan devised last summer by a White House postal task force to make the USPS solvent. Crawford said he had been willing to testify if members of Congress were to schedule hearings on the matter but none had materialized.

Crawford acknowledged that efforts had been underway long before DeJoy’s appointment to streamline some USPS functions in light of its financial challenges, including closing some mail processing centers. But Crawford said it was still DeJoy’s responsibility to ensure the Postal Service is able to carry out its responsibilities.

“If you were independent, you’d say ‘hold it, we’re in the middle of coronavirus and trying to move to voting by mail to allow an election to take place and so old folks and all sorts of people who are vulnerable can vote,’” Crawford said. “Why wouldn’t you make some extraordinary measures the way you do for a Christmas rush?”

In March, as part of the CARES Act, Congress approved up to $10 billion in loan funds for the Postal Service to offset losses related to the coronavirus. Yet it wasn’t until July that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and USPS finally agreed to terms for the loan.

One notable requirement as part of the deal: The Postal Service had to disclose to Treasury its proprietary, negotiated service agreements with companies including Amazon, Fedex and UPS.

Image: Heidi PrzybylaHeidi Przybyla

Heidi Przybyla is an NBC News correspondent.

Leigh Ann Caldwell

Leigh Ann Caldwell is an NBC News correspondent.

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