President Donald Trump said Thursday he opposed emergency funding for election operations and the Postal Service because it could allow more people to vote by mail.
“They want $3.5 billion for something that will turn out to be fraudulent, that’s election money basically,” Trump said of congressional Democrats. “They want $25 billion, billion, for the post office. 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.”
Speaking on the Fox Business Network, the president was more direct than he or his advisers had been previously about the reason for his opposition to assistance for the Postal Service, which has seen existing revenue challenges exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Now, if we don’t make a deal, that means they don’t get the money. That means they can’t have universal mail-in voting, they just can’t have it,” Trump said Thursday.
It’s the latest sign that talks on a new relief package are not moving anytime soon.
Significant funds for both elections and the Postal Service have been regular asks of Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Charles E. Schumer in the stalled discussions over the next coronavirus relief package.
Pelosi told reporters Thursday during her weekly news conference that Trump’s comments about Postal Service funding are not consistent with what his representatives, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, said in the negotiating room.
“There has been some word that the negotiators might be willing to do some money, but we have trouble with the language and that has to be taken care of,” the California Democrat said.
Republicans have never liked the Postal Service “because they always want to try to find a way to make money off of something and they want to privatize,” Pelosi said.
“Now, at a time of a pandemic, you would think they would have a little sensitivity,” she said. “But so obsessed are they to undermine absentee voting that this is their connection there.”
Trump often complains about the Postal Service’s shipping rates for packages, particularly for large shippers like Amazon.
“You know, there’s nothing wrong with getting out and voting; you get out and vote. They voted during World War I and World War II, and they should have voter ID, because the Democrats scammed the system,” Trump said. “But, two of the items are the post office and the $3.5 billion for mail-in voting.”
Pelosi said the $3.6 billion that Democrats put in their bill for election assistance money is not just about absentee ballots, as the president claims. It’s about ensuring that states continuing to offer in-person voting have enough polling locations that are set up properly for social distancing and that states can offer early voting and boxes where people can drop off their ballots, she said.
“The president is afraid of the American people. He’s been afraid for a while,” Pelosi said. “He knows that on the legit it would be hard for him to win, so he wants to put obstacles to participation.”
The Democratic National Committee was quick to respond to the president’s comments.
“Donald Trump admitted that he is deliberately sabotaging the Post Office because he thinks it will help boost his reelection,” DNC senior spokesperson and adviser Lily Adams said in a statement. “Trump is taking money the Post Office needs and holding up coronavirus relief for millions of struggling Americans and small businesses because he wants to try to stop more voters from voting safely in a pandemic.”
Andrew Bates, the rapid response director for former Vice President Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, also accused Trump of “sabotaging” the Postal Service “because he wants to deprive Americans of their fundamental right to vote safely during the most catastrophic public health crisis in over 100 years.”
Bates noted that the Trump campaign itself has been encouraging the president’s supporters to vote by mail. The president sometimes praises absentee voting while opposing mail-in voting, although in many jurisdictions that can be a distinction without a difference.
Pelosi, having picked up on Trump’s inconsistency, said she told her members to change their rhetoric.
“I said to my folks, ‘Don’t call it vote by mail anymore, call it absentee ballots,’” she said. “They’re exactly the same thing.”