Former Attorney General Eric Holder told Yahoo News Thursday that Postmaster General Louis DeJoy should “absolutely” face a criminal investigation into whether he violated federal laws making it illegal to tamper with the mail.
“There is no question about that,” Holder told the Yahoo News “Skullduggery” podcast in an interview. “You tell me: Why would you be taking offline, right now, machines that do mail sorting at high speeds? Why would you be taking mailboxes off the street? Why would you be restricting the amount of overtime that postal employees can spend as we’re about to enter a period where the mails are going to be really important for this nation to handle a huge number of vote-by-mail ballots? There is clearly an indication that this is something that’s political in nature.”
Holder made the comments after being asked whether Postal Service cutbacks ordered by DeJoy violate a criminal law (18 U.S.C. § 1701) that says anyone who “knowingly and willfully obstructs or retards the passage of the mail or any carrier or conveyance carrying the mail” is committing a crime.
Public pressure to fix the Postal Service disruptions has mounted as the cutbacks have begun to take a toll, particularly in rural communities. DeJoy, who has given large sums of money to President Trump’s election campaign, was tapped in May to run the agency. On Tuesday, DeJoy said he would reverse course “to avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail.” But shortly after that pronouncement, the Postal Service nonetheless instructed managers not to reconnect mail sorting machines that had been disconnected, a development first reported by Motherboard at Vice News.
Holder said he does not expect this administration to initiate a criminal investigation, but said one must be conducted.
“This is something that is so serious that I think that the next attorney general, the next iteration of the Justice Department, has to look into what happened here,” Holder said. “Whether or not it has an impact on the election or not, the attempt to subvert the election is something that has to be looked at post-Jan. 20.”
The service cuts, equipment removal and other moves made by DeJoy at the agency could affect the Postal Service’s capacity to handle the volume of mail expected as the country approaches the November election because nothing has been done to restore what was cut, Holder said.
“With regard to the machines that have been taken offline, he’s not going to put them back online, he’s not going to increase the amount of overtime that people can spend, and he’s not going to put back on the streets the post office boxes,” Holder said. “So he’s done really essentially nothing to make up for what at best could be an error and what I suspect really was a political attempt to support the Trump reelection effort.”
Holder, a longtime Democrat who served as attorney general through most of the Obama administration, said he has been struck by the large number of Trump administration officials who have been arrested or charged with crimes. The comment came as the former attorney general reflected on the news that former Trump adviser Steve Bannon had been charged with fraud for a fundraising campaign he mounted to pay for a private border wall.
“Too much of this administration has essentially been a grift, a fraud, and Bannon is just the latest in a long line of the president’s men who have been charged with crimes, convicted of crimes or who have been sent to jail,” Holder said. “This is probably the most corrupt administration that we have seen, maybe in the history of this country.”
Holder has long worried about what he has called the politicization of the Justice Department under Trump. He said he is not reassured by the fact that Trump’s Justice Department charged Bannon with fraud.
“This attorney general has shown himself to be the confidant, the lawyer for the president, as opposed to the lawyer for the people, interposing himself in cases in a way that no attorney general that I’m aware of has ever done,” he said. “It’s also interesting he only kind of gets involved in cases where it’s the president’s guys who are having problems. How many drug cases has he gotten involved with?