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Politics Chat: President Trump Goes After The USPS

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Understandably, the pandemic is completely dominating the presidential race, but that's not the only issue that has voters motivated. The controversy over the post office and mail-in voting, the financial crisis and what Congress is doing about it - there is a lot going on. We're joined now by NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson to break it down. Hi, Mara.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Hi, Lulu.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So we know what President Trump is doing about the pandemic because he is the leader of this country, but what is Joe Biden's campaign saying about this crisis? After all, he wants to lead it.

LIASSON: Yes, he wants to lead it. And the very first event that the Harris - the Biden-Harris ticket did after the announcement that she was on the ticket was a briefing by public health officials. The core of Biden's argument is that Trump has failed to show leadership on the pandemic. He's failed to use the enormous resources of the federal government to protect people's lives and their livelihoods. Biden is calling for all governors to issue mask mandates. He's saying that's what would - be one thing we could do to protect our fellow Americans and that it's the patriotic thing to do. Of course, that's something that's opposed by the president.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. Let's move on to another big story this past week - President Trump's threat to block funding for mail-in ballots as well as for the U.S. Postal Service to deliver them. He's very openly against mail-in ballots. And here is what he told Fox News. Let's listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: But if they don't get those two items, that means you can't have universal mail-in voting because they're not equipped to have it.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So there's been a lot of backlash to this. And under the direction of his new postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, one of the president's donors, the Postal Service has been removing mailboxes and high-speed sorting machines around the country.

LIASSON: Right. You know, pressuring Ukraine to announce an investigation into Joe Biden might be hard for a lot of people to follow, but everyone understands what slower Postal Service means, not just for mail-in ballots but for essential mail like veterans' checks and prescriptions. You know, a recent Pew poll showed 91% of Americans have a favorable view of the post office.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Wow.

LIASSON: So the post office, you could say, is not just one of the most important institutions in American life. It's a beloved institution. And so this is one of the biggest stories around the country today. The president hasn't ruled out a compromise, but he has said that if they don't get extra money - which he's against - they can't carry out increased vote by mail.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And there were protests outside the postmaster general's house here in Washington, D.C., yesterday. And the president expressed his support for him last night, too. So that's the one side. What are the Democrats saying?

LIASSON: Democrats are planning a hearing on August 24 where they will ask Postmaster General DeJoy to testify. August 24 just happens to be the first day of the Republican convention. But he'll certainly be asked about the difficulties that he says he would have in processing mail-in voting, which - by the way, if every single American voted by mail, it still wouldn't be the same number of letters and packages that the post office processes at Christmastime. But he'll probably also be asked about veterans who aren't getting their checks or seniors who aren't getting their medicine. It turns out that the post office is one of the most essential and beloved institutions in American life, and people don't like it when somebody tries to mess with their mail delivery. Just to give you an example of how angry Democratic members are, one of the most moderate Democrats in the House, Jim Cooper of Tennessee, suggested that if DeJoy failed to appear, the sergeant-at-arms should go out and arrest him. So that just shows you how sensitive an issue mail delivery in the United States.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: OK. The president has also been attacking Joe Biden's running mate, Senator Kamala Harris. What do you think she'll bring to this ticket?

LIASSON: I think that, just like Vice President Pence represented the bedrock part of the Republican base - evangelicals - Kamala Harris has the potential to excite the bedrock constituency of the Democratic Party - Black women voters, as well as voters in Asian American and Caribbean American communities. But I think, even more important than that, she's going to carry out the task of all vice presidents, which is to prosecute the case against this - vice presidential candidates, which is to prosecute the case against the sitting president. She can carry out the kind of attacks that Biden won't do or doesn't want to do. Here's just an example of something she said when she was announced as the running mate.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KAMALA HARRIS: Trump is also the reason millions of Americans are now unemployed. He inherited the longest economic expansion in history from Barack Obama and Joe Biden and then, like everything else he inherited, he ran it straight into the ground.

LIASSON: You know, Harris is a prosecutor by training, and she has shown that she is more than willing to prosecute the case against Trump.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: One last thing before we wrap up. We've heard that the president's younger brother, Robert Trump, passed away last night. Do we know anything about his cause of death?

LIASSON: Well, the hospital, New York Presbyterian, did not say the cause of death. But we know he had a fall recently, and he had had brain bleeds. And that's pretty much all we know right now.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And that's NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Mara, thank you so much.

LIASSON: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF NIGHTMARES ON WAX'S "ARGHA NOAH") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.