By installing loyalist department heads, purging inspectors general throughout the federal government, navigating around Senate confirmations by counting on permanent acting officials, or relying on his son-in-law to serve as a poor replacement for entire offices, the president has effectively turned the executive branch into a machine designed to fulfill his personal wishes. Now, Trump appears ready to bring that war on government processes to the United States Postal Service.
On Wednesday, the USPS board of governors confirmed that North Carolina businessman Louis DeJoy will serve as the new postmaster general on June 15, following the expected retirement of the current head, Megan Brennan, who has clashed with the president over his longtime wish to make the independent agency charge Amazon more for using its services. According to the Federal Election Commission, DeJoy has given over $2 million to the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee since the president’s 2016 win; he is also currently serving as the lead fundraiser for the (still-scheduled) Republican National Convention in Charlotte.
Already, the leadership at the Postal Service is frustrated with the president’s interventions, including his threat to block $10 billion in aid if the agency did not raise shipping rates for companies like Amazon. According to the Washington Post, the board’s vice-chairman resigned last week after he “told confidants he was upset that the Treasury Department was meddling in what has long been an apolitical agency and felt that his fellow board members had capitulated to” the Trump administration’s demands regarding shipping rates.
DeJoy, the first postmaster general in two decades who is not a career USPS official, will now have to manage an agency with severe financial challenges, and may also have to respond to Trump’s pressure for the Postal Service to renegotiate with the American Postal Workers Union, one of the last remaining public-sector unions with significant pull in contract negotiations. And if his loyalty to the president remains, the Postal Service could become the latest front in Trump’s apparent effort to use the federal government to punish Amazon. Already, Trump — whose conversations on the matter show he views Amazon; its owner, Jeff Bezos; and his other “degenerate” property, the Washington Post, as interchangeable — reportedly encouraged the Pentagon to “screw Amazon” in 2018. The next year, the company was denied a $10 billion cloud-computing contract, over which Amazon has accused the administration of “unmistakable bias.”
As New York’s Jonathan Chait summarizes the allegation, Trump’s apparent effort to “improperly use government policy to punish the owner of an independent newspaper as retribution for critical coverage” may now expand to the USPS, if DeJoy succumbs to Trump’s pressure to raise fees for delivering Amazon packages — despite the agency’s consistent pushback on Trump’s claim that the company does not pay the Postal Service enough. Either way, it’s unlikely that with a firm supporter taking over as postmaster general he will continue to call the USPS “a joke” during a pandemic in which millions of Americans rely on the agency’s services for vital supplies.