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Response to stillcool (Original post)

Sat Aug 22, 2020, 06:06 PM

21. Mnuchin and the Post Office

Mnuchin Paved Way for U.S.P.S. Shake-Up
Kenneth P. Vogel, Jessica Silver-Greenberg, Alan Rappeport and Hailey Fuchs 1 hr ago

Since 1970, the Postal Service had been an independent agency, walled off from political influence. The postmaster general is not appointed by the president and is not a cabinet member. Instead, the postal chief is picked by a board of governors, with seats reserved for members of both parties, who are nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate for seven-year terms.

Now, not only was the Trump administration, through Mr. Mnuchin, involving itself in the process for selecting the next postmaster general, but the two Democratic governors who were then serving on the board were not invited to the Treasury meeting. Since the meeting did not include a quorum of board members, it was not subject to sunshine laws that apply to official board meetings and there is no formal Postal Service record or minutes of what was discussed.

Nearly six months later, that meeting, along with other interactions between Mr. Mnuchin and the postal board, has taken on heightened significance as the Trump administration confronts allegations it sought to politicize the Postal Service and hinder its ability to handle a surge in mail-in ballots in November’s election. In interviews, documents and congressional testimony, Mr. Mnuchin emerges as a key player in selecting the board members who hired the Trump megadonor now leading the Postal Service and in pushing the agenda that he has pursued.

Over the last two years, Mr. Mnuchin met privately on multiple occasions about postal matters with Mr. Duncan, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee who was confirmed by the Senate as a postal board member in August 2018, according to people familiar with the meetings.

Mr. Mnuchin also arranged a meeting with John M. Barger, a California lawyer and financial investment adviser who was recommended to the Treasury secretary by a mutual associate who knew of Mr. Barger’s work as chairman of the board of the Los Angeles County pension fund. After a meeting in Washington, Mr. Mnuchin recommended that Mr. Trump appoint Mr. Barger to the board of governors.

Mr. Barger was confirmed by the Senate last summer, and was tapped to lead the committee to select a new postmaster general. He attended the February meeting in Mr. Mnuchin’s office with Mr. Duncan.
S. David Fineman, a former member and chairman of the Postal Service’s board, called Mr. Mnuchin’s close involvement in the affairs of the Postal Service “absolutely unprecedented.”During his tenure in the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations, he said the board had minimal interaction with the administrations, and “certainly no communication
regarding the hiring of the postmaster general.”

The board hired two search firms to assist in the selection process by conducting a nationwide search. One of them, Russell Reynolds Associates, compiled a database of prospective candidates and provided a subset of dozens of names it deemed most promising to the board.

Mr. DeJoy’s name was not among those initially provided, according to people familiar with the process. But Mr. Duncan raised Mr. DeJoy’s name during a discussion among board members about other prospective candidates. Mr. Duncan, who has been involved in a super PAC that supports Mr. Trump’s re-election, had met Mr. DeJoy through Mr. DeJoy’s wife, Aldona Wos. Both had been appointed by Mr. Trump to help lead the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships.

Kenneth Vogel, Alan Rappeport and Hailey Fuchs reported from Washington, and Jessica Silver-Greenberg from New York. Kitty Bennett contributed research.

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