House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has called for an extraordinary congressional session to investigate the ever-growing crisis in the U.S. Postal Service as accusations mount that the Trump administration is trying to undermine the agency to rig the November election.
Pelosi has asked the House to return to Washington by the weekend for an emergency session during the presidential convention season.
Democrats also demanded that new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy testify on Aug. 24, or face contempt charges, to answer charges that his controversial new policy changes are intended to deliberately slow voting by mail during the coronavirus pandemic.
The unprecedented actions came as social media blew up over the weekend with photos of public mail boxes being removed or locked to prevent them being used, and postal vans being hauled away on flatbed trucks.
"In a time of a pandemic, the Postal Service is Election Central," Pelosi wrote Sunday in a letter to colleagues, who were scheduled to be out of session until September. "Lives, livelihoods and the life of our American Democracy are under threat from the president."
Demonstrators descended on the North Carolina mansion of new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, protesting his controversial cutbacks that have slowed postal deliveries, cut carriers' hours and removed mail sorting machines from postal facilities.
"The Postmaster General and top Postal Service leadership must answer to the Congress and the American people as to why they are pushing these dangerous new policies that threaten to silence the voices of millions, just months before the election," Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, said in a statement.
DeJoy is a top Trump fundraiser.
Unfortunately, this transformative initiative has had unintended consequences that impacted our overall service levels," DeJoy wrote in a memo.
"However, recent changes are not the only contributing factors. Over the years we have grown undisciplined in our mail and package processing schedules, causing an increase in delayed mail between processing facilities and delivery units."
Responding to the public outcry, the USPS announced Sunday it would stop removing mailboxes until after Election Day.
"Given the recent customer concerns the Postal Service will postpone removing boxes for a period of 90 days while we evaluate our customers concerns," spokeswoman Kim Frum said in a statement. The removals, she said, were part of an effort to "identify redundant/seldom used collection boxes as first-class mail volume continues" to decline.
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said the same day that no more mail-sorting machines would be dismantled.
Last week, the postal service warned most of the county that mail-in ballots may not be received by election offices in time to be counted.
Since April, Trump has falsely claimed that mail-in voting is rife with massive voter fraud and would unfairly benefit Democrats. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to plague the country, with current cases at 5.41 million and more than 170,000 deaths, registered voters have increasingly supported voting by mail as a way to safeguard the public on Election Day.