In case you missed it, Donald Trump's new target is one of America's oldest and most necessary institutions — the U.S. Postal Service.
It doesn't matter that Trump and most of his adult family members and top aides vote by mail. He is convinced that during the COVID-19 pandemic, if millions of Americans vote by mail, he ultimately would lose to Joe Biden.
So he is claiming, with no evidence, that voting by mail will result in huge fraud. He is cutting the Postal Service budget. The Postal Service board of governors named Louis DeJoy, a major Trump donor who oversaw his inaugural festivities, to be postmaster general. Staff members are telling reporters that DeJoy is implementing changes that could all but gut the service before the election. DeJoy is supposed to testify in September before Congress about his plans.
Officially, the Postal Service says it has to reduce costs and cut operations because it needs more money. The USPS has been helped by handling more packages during the coronavirus outbreak. But Trump is involved in a feud with Jeff Bezos, who owns The Washington Post and Amazon. Trump has raised shipping rates in an effort to make business more difficult for Amazon, which is shifting some package deliveries to private services.
An additional problem is that thousands of postal workers and mail carriers have gotten sick from the virus, which has slowed mail deliveries in some areas.
Meanwhile, Trump is hinting darkly he might not concede the election if he loses and intends to file a lawsuit questioning the legitimacy of the results if he loses.
With control of the Senate also at stake this year and Democrats eager to overturn years of GOP leadership, the entire federal government could be in chaos if Americans are not confident of the election results.
All studies of mail-in voting fraud indicate it is not a serious issue. For example, Oregon, which votes mainly by mail and has done so for years, has documented about a dozen fraudulent ballots out of 100 million votes cast.
With the history of mail-in voting dating back to the Civil War, in the last three federal elections, one in four voters has filed a mailed ballot. With the coronavirus still out of control, millions more Americans are likely to mail their ballots this year to avoid standing in line and potentially being exposed to the virus.
There has been concern for some months that the Postal Service won't be ready to handle a flood of ballots and the election could take days to decide. Thus, House Democrats have proposed $25 billion to help the USPS prepare.
But Trump and Senate Republicans have proposed no extra funds and want to make drastic cuts in the Postal Service, which is already struggling to deliver more packages and mail because of the pandemic. For example, millions more Americans are getting prescriptions filled through the mail rather than risking trips to the pharmacy.
Eventually, Trump hopes to privatize the entire service. Democrats charge that Trump is dismantling the service to delegitimize mailed ballots. For example, Trump's campaign says it hopes to block Nevada's effort to expand mail-in voting. At the same time, he and his campaign are urging Floridians who voted for Trump to mail in their ballots early to be certain of having their votes counted.
New York decided at the last minute to have its June primary done entirely by mail because of COVID-19. But there was enormous confusion over when ballots had to be mailed in to be counted and thousands of voters were too late, so their ballots were discarded. The same thing happened in Wisconsin, where thousands of voters did not get their absentee ballots or mailed them back too late or they were not postmarked. The issue of what Postal Service obligations are is bouncing around the courts.
An internal report about the situation revealed serious concerns about "potential" issues in nearly every state if there is a big influx of mailed-in ballots in November. The Postal Service's board of governors insists the service must have more money. The White House says that will not happen.
Trump currently predicts the election will be a disaster if there is massive mail-in voting, except in Florida which he says has a Republican governor who is on top of the problem. Trump warned national results may not be known for weeks or months or years.
Write your legislators. Weeks? Months? Years?
Ann McFeatters is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service.