Trump pushes conspiracy theories as House rebukes his handling of the USPS

President Trump continues to claim mail-in voting is rife with fraud. CNN's Daniel Dale explains how his go-to examples don't showcase fraud.

Posted: Aug 23, 2020 7:10 AM
Updated: Aug 23, 2020 7:10 AM

With his administration engulfed in controversy over cuts to the post office and slowdowns in mail delivery, President Donald Trump spent Saturday golfing and tweeting about baseless conspiracy theories as more than two dozen House Republicans defied him and joined Democrats to vote for a $25 billion infusion for the Postal Service.

Though the legislation is not likely to get anywhere in the Republican-held Senate under Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's iron hand, the debacle involving one of America's most beloved institutions has shown the limits of Trump's strategy three months before voters decide whether to reelect him.

On the eve of the Republican National Convention, when many in the GOP would like to see the President stick to the script and broaden his appeal to middle-of-the-road voters, Trump appears far from the reset he'll need this week.

Just as the President wants to go on the offensive, he's been dealing with a series of new unwelcome controversies, from the arrest of his former strategist Steve Bannon to revelations late Saturday about unflattering comments his sister made about him to his niece, Mary Trump. Maryanne Trump Barry bitterly criticized her brother, President Donald Trump, saying, "Donald's out for Donald," and appeared to confirm her niece Mary Trump's previous allegations that he had a friend take his SATs to get into college, according to audio excerpts obtained by CNN. The Washington Post first obtained the previously unreleased transcripts and audio from Mary Trump, author of a recent bombshell book about the President and one of his most outspoken critics.

Throughout it all, Trump continues to embrace tactics that seem intended only to fire up his base. On Saturday, his focus was on the Postal Service and the Food and Drug Administration.

Before calling the request for the additional post office funding a "HOAX" on Twitter, Trump conjured up a new theory that employees at the US Food and Drug Administration are conspiring to slow down the development of a coronavirus vaccine to hurt his reelection chances.

The President's unwavering campaign to erode public confidence in long-trusted institutions knows no end. But his assault on mail-in voting in the midst of a pandemic has dragged on for months, and there are clear signs that some GOP lawmakers are losing their patience with his tactics.

Republican senators joined Democrats this week in demanding answers from Trump's new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a Trump ally and donor, about recent changes under his watch including the removal of high-volume sorting machines, some blue mail boxes on city streets, the elimination of overtime for postal workers and the curtailment of post office hours.

The subsequent slowdowns have prevented some veterans from getting their medicine on time, angering members of both parties. DeJoy insisted the moves were intended to increase efficiency, but he said this past week that he would suspend the changes until after the election -- although, as CNN has learned, that doesn't necessarily mean machines that had been removed will be put back in use.

Even DeJoy broke with the President on mail-in voting Friday, telling the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, "I voted by mail for a number of years. The Postal Service will deliver every ballot and process every ballot in time that it receives."

View Trump and Biden head-to-head polling

And although the vote on additional funding in the Democrat-controlled House Saturday evening was largely along party lines, the more than two dozen Republicans who joined the Democrats included vulnerable members trying to shore up their support before they face voters this fall, moderates, and even members from deep-red districts who are clearly feeling the heat from their constituents on the Postal Service slowdowns.

The bipartisan Board of Governors that oversees the post office proposed the $25 billion figure saying the money is needed for the post office to continue normal operations and maintain normal delivery speeds. Still, Trump inaccurately tweeted on Saturday evening that representatives of the post office "have repeatedly stated that they DO NOT NEED MONEY and will not make changes."

"This is all another HOAX by the Democrats to give $25 billion unneeded dollars for political purposes without talking about the Universal Mail-in Ballot scam.... that they are trying to pull off in violation of everything that our Country stands for," Trump said.

He urged fellow Republicans to vote "no" on the "Pelosi/Schumer money wasting hoax" and added that "only absentee ballots are acceptable," even though there is little difference between an absentee ballot and a mail-in ballot in most states.

In a floor speech Saturday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi argued that the Trump administration's operational changes to the Postal Service "degrade service, delay the mail and threaten to disenfranchise voters, particularly in communities of color."

She told the story of a veteran with epilepsy in her district who told her the prescriptions sent by the VA through the mail are now taking twice as long to arrive.

"This is immediate in their lives. We are their Representatives," the California Democrat said, arguing for the passage of the legislation in spite of the President's veto threat. "For the sake of every senior who is delayed in getting his or her Social Security check; every veteran who is delayed in getting his or her medication; every working family who is delayed in getting their paycheck; and every voter now facing the prospect of choosing between their vote and their health, we need to pass this bill."

McConnell criticized the "piecemeal" approach that he said ignored the needs of families struggling in the pandemic. He charged Pelosi with "blocking billions in relief for American families and laid-off workers" due to the stalemate in negotiations on the next stimulus package.

"As soon as House Democrats convinced themselves their own jobs might be in jeopardy, they came sprinting back to Washington to pass a totally piecemeal postal bill without a dime to help struggling families," McConnell said, ignoring the fact that Republicans had also voted for the measure.

A new conspiracy theory about the FDA

Earlier on Saturday, the President suggested without any evidence that unnamed employees at the FDA are purposefully slowing the process of developing and approving a vaccine.

He called out FDA commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn, whom he appointed -- the latest example of his willingness to target his own advisers if he does not think they are helping his political ambitions.

"The deep state, or whoever, over at the FDA is making it very difficult for drug companies to get people in order to test the vaccines and therapeutics," Trump tweeted. "Obviously, they are hoping to delay the answer until after November 3rd. Must focus on speed, and saving lives! @SteveFDA."

Back in May, Hahn told CNN's Sara Murray and Marshall Cohen that science and data would be his "north star." Hahn has also said that the FDA will not "cut corners" to approve a vaccine, particularly when so many Americans are concerned about the safety and efficacy of a vaccine that the administration has vowed will be developed at "warp speed."

Though Trump has repeatedly said that he hopes a vaccine will be ready before the end of this year, vaccinologists interviewed by CNN have said that timeline is unrealistic.

Now, like so many other Trump advisers with medical or scientific expertise, Hahn finds himself ensnared in a Trump conspiracy theory as the President presses for a miracle that will help him win reelection this fall in the form of a live-saving treatment or a vaccine for Covid-19.

The FDA did not respond to CNN's request for comment Saturday.

Looking to draw a sharp contrast with Democratic nominee Joe Biden before the Republican National Convention, Trump is also criticizing Biden's assertion in an ABC News interview that he would shut down the country again if there is a second wave of coronavirus and scientists recommend the move to slow the spread of Covid-19.

"I would be prepared to do whatever it takes to save lives. I would shut it down. I would listen to the scientists," the former vice president told ABC News' David Muir during a joint interview with his running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris, that is set to air Sunday night.

On Twitter, Trump mischaracterized Biden's remarks, not mentioning Biden's qualification that he would shut down the country if scientists made the recommendation.

The President tweeted Saturday evening that "despite biggest job gains and a 'V' shaped recovery, Joe Biden said, 'I would shut it down', referring to our Country. He has no clue!"

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 895229

Reported Deaths: 9462
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1749772017
Ramsey722701040
Dakota66032572
Anoka62513568
Washington39357355
Stearns32821275
St. Louis28761399
Wright25354211
Scott25329181
Olmsted21750127
Sherburne18478126
Carver1629166
Clay11923103
Blue Earth1126366
Rice11234138
Crow Wing11003122
Chisago974676
Kandiyohi9660106
Otter Tail9611126
Benton8815124
Beltrami801794
Goodhue786596
Douglas7689100
Itasca752796
Mower721349
Winona702756
McLeod694483
Isanti681383
Steele669431
Morrison663479
Becker620873
Polk591684
Freeborn550846
Carlton529474
Nobles521654
Lyon518761
Mille Lacs516573
Nicollet510960
Pine500641
Cass491252
Todd483642
Brown465057
Le Sueur445933
Meeker422357
Martin378143
Wabasha366010
Waseca365132
Dodge351511
Hubbard349848
Roseau307931
Fillmore299115
Wadena298239
Redwood277845
Houston266817
Renville264151
Faribault253032
Pennington247529
Sibley246917
Kanabec241536
Cottonwood225032
Chippewa216342
Aitkin215850
Pope203210
Watonwan194920
Yellow Medicine185423
Rock174728
Swift169322
Koochiching168123
Stevens164511
Jackson159216
Clearwater155720
Marshall151122
Murray150911
Pipestone148329
Lake129824
Lac qui Parle120025
Wilkin119416
Mahnomen104714
Norman10389
Grant9719
Big Stone9365
Lincoln8705
Kittson71523
Red Lake70710
Traverse5996
Unassigned572124
Lake of the Woods5235
Cook3020

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 516453

Reported Deaths: 7289
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk80319799
Linn32142424
Scott26637292
Black Hawk21974378
Woodbury20490258
Johnson19778105
Dubuque18515241
Pottawattamie15890213
Dallas15320113
Story1380258
Warren8450104
Cerro Gordo7964123
Clinton7725114
Webster7326122
Des Moines7098105
Marshall669093
Muscatine6645117
Wapello6441144
Jasper619591
Sioux610177
Lee5908105
Marion557897
Buena Vista502149
Plymouth488388
Henry418655
Benton404859
Jones404862
Bremer395372
Washington391463
Boone389739
Carroll367755
Mahaska365365
Crawford353747
Dickinson314655
Jackson307747
Buchanan305741
Clay295536
Delaware294654
Kossuth289077
Fayette286353
Hardin284353
Tama279777
Page272533
Wright266149
Cedar265527
Hamilton259857
Winneshiek258143
Floyd255449
Clayton244459
Poweshiek237243
Madison234525
Harrison234379
Cass233466
Butler232744
Iowa229634
Jefferson223043
Mills220930
Winnebago215938
Hancock214639
Cherokee211347
Lyon206142
Appanoose205357
Allamakee203955
Calhoun196919
Shelby196442
Union191141
Humboldt185130
Grundy183637
Franklin183029
Mitchell182043
Chickasaw178922
Emmet178246
Louisa176953
Sac171026
Guthrie168137
Montgomery161745
Clarke160829
Keokuk150839
Palo Alto150532
Howard146824
Monroe142739
Ida130141
Greene127517
Davis124625
Lucas124426
Monona122939
Worth12139
Pocahontas120724
Adair114337
Osceola104818
Decatur101913
Taylor98514
Fremont95913
Van Buren93222
Wayne84525
Ringgold76729
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Adams5748
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