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Carl Bernstein: Challenges facing the USPS are a 'national emergency'

"This is a national emergency caused by a despotic president who's unique in our history," Carl Bernstein says, and the press should cover it accordingly. Bernstein says "we need history in our journalism" to put Trump's conduct, like undermining the postal service, in context.

Posted: Aug 17, 2020 6:10 PM
Updated: Aug 17, 2020 6:10 PM

There is growing concern among legislators, voters and postal workers over financial strain and policy changes at the United States Postal Service — and legendary journalist Carl Bernstein said the issue should also be top of mind for journalists, calling it "a national emergency."

If the Postal Service is unable to function properly, it could "undermine the very electoral system, the most important element of our democracy," Bernstein told CNN's Brian Stelter on "Reliable Sources" Sunday.

Postal union leaders and lawmakers from both parties have sounded alarms over controversial policy changes recently imposed under Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, including eliminating overtime and slowing some mail delivery. Democrats have claimed he is intentionally undermining postal service operations to sabotage mail-in voting in the November election — a charge he denies.

On Friday, the internal watchdog at the USPS said it will review those policy changes, at the request of Senator Elizabeth Warren. And on Sunday, House Democrats said they are "ramping up" an investigation of the Postal Service, and called on Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and Chairman of the Postal Service Board of Governors Robert Duncan to testify in a hearing on August 24.

"The hearing will examine the sweeping operational and organizational changes at the Postal Service that experts warn could degrade delivery standards, slow the mail and potentially impair the rights of eligible Americans to cast their votes through the mail in the upcoming November elections," House Democratic leaders said in a Sunday statement.

The stakes are high in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election — more people are expected to vote by mail versus in polling places because of the risk of coronavirus, and some states have adjusted voting laws to make it easier to do so. Although the USPS has repeatedly tried to reassure voters they can handle the influx of mail-in ballots, it has sent warnings to nearly every state that slowdowns in delivery could cause ballots to show up late and not be counted.

CNN and other news organizations reported that in the last week, the USPS has removed letter collection boxes in at least four states, though the Postal Service said Sunday it will stop removing boxes through late November.

Tensions over the issue flared after President Donald Trump said on Thursday that he opposes much-needed USPS funding because he doesn't want to see it used for mail-in voting this November. Trump has tried to restrict voting-by-mail because he claims it is rife with fraud and abuse, claims that CNN has fact-checked multiple times and are largely without merit.

Bernstein on Sunday railed on Trump's comments as an effort, in his mind, to undermine Americans' ability to vote.

"We've never had a President of the United States who has tried to undermine our most basic institutions," Bernstein said. "We've never had a President of the United States who is, in public, even admittedly trying to hijack an election by excluding people from voting."

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows pushed back on such characterizations in a Sunday interview with CNN's Jake Tapper, saying, "the President doesn't have an issue with anybody voting by mail."

"What he opposes is universal mail-in ballots, where you send millions of ballots out to registered voters across the country, even those that don't request it," Meadows said.

For the press, Bernstein said the challenges facing the Postal Service should be a "story that we do not let go of for a moment, that we're on the air and online with it every moment."

In particular, Bernstein said he hopes reporters will remind readers of the history of the Post Office.

"Remember, the Postal Service was started by Benjamin Franklin, he was the first Postmaster General, to be an element of our democracy in 1775," Bernstein said. "Now we have a President committed, in essence, to shutting down the ability of the Post Office to help Americans vote ... This is an unprecedented crisis, we've never seen anything like this."

Bernstein continued, calling out Fox News specifically, and saying it has an obligation to continue dedicating coverage on the issue.

"And particularly over at Fox News, where there are real patriotic journalists, reporters," he said, "Fox News has an unusual obligation here to be patriotic and point out the history of the Postal Service, the history of our free elections and how this President is undermining them."

--CNN's Kevin Bohn, Marshall Cohen and Kristen Holmes contributed to this report.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 333626

Reported Deaths: 3843
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin700691145
Ramsey29459521
Dakota23564198
Anoka23541236
Washington14864125
Stearns14564125
St. Louis9549121
Scott896460
Wright847548
Olmsted714637
Sherburne618746
Clay529960
Carver509715
Kandiyohi440828
Rice432338
Blue Earth431217
Crow Wing383339
Otter Tail338925
Chisago334516
Benton322753
Nobles316032
Winona297832
Douglas283040
Mower274823
Polk271527
Morrison246731
McLeod233721
Lyon232812
Beltrami230718
Goodhue222932
Becker221521
Steele21038
Itasca206324
Isanti203917
Carlton201417
Todd190314
Nicollet172126
Mille Lacs164632
Freeborn16227
Le Sueur157012
Brown156115
Cass153511
Pine14498
Meeker144812
Waseca143411
Roseau13035
Martin124721
Hubbard119729
Wabasha11301
Redwood104620
Chippewa9808
Renville95530
Cottonwood9454
Dodge9311
Watonwan8944
Wadena8637
Sibley8404
Rock8249
Houston8004
Aitkin79930
Fillmore7690
Pipestone76518
Pennington7058
Yellow Medicine69612
Kanabec68614
Swift63610
Murray6124
Faribault6093
Pope5721
Clearwater55410
Marshall5459
Stevens5403
Jackson5321
Lake4518
Koochiching4216
Wilkin4175
Lac qui Parle4124
Lincoln3811
Unassigned38159
Norman3718
Big Stone3392
Mahnomen3225
Grant2986
Kittson2518
Red Lake2303
Traverse1531
Lake of the Woods1071
Cook800

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 237371

Reported Deaths: 2571
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk34873347
Linn14787169
Scott1184692
Black Hawk11288147
Woodbury10763137
Johnson985939
Dubuque947999
Story701924
Pottawattamie682474
Dallas661260
Sioux383829
Webster378339
Cerro Gordo373252
Marshall360950
Clinton345645
Buena Vista316614
Muscatine305172
Des Moines300623
Warren294115
Plymouth287044
Wapello265072
Jones237118
Jasper231546
Lee228719
Marion211922
Carroll204325
Bremer202713
Henry19367
Crawford183116
Benton175423
Tama157442
Jackson151117
Washington150216
Delaware147621
Dickinson145812
Boone144912
Mahaska133928
Wright13107
Clay12505
Buchanan123410
Hardin122812
Hamilton119514
Page11925
Kossuth11768
Clayton115510
Cedar114614
Harrison113432
Floyd111921
Mills11129
Calhoun10987
Fayette109812
Lyon10769
Butler10748
Winneshiek105513
Poweshiek103714
Iowa101414
Cherokee9674
Winnebago96325
Chickasaw9195
Hancock9138
Sac9068
Louisa90122
Grundy89514
Allamakee88413
Cass84725
Union8437
Mitchell8429
Appanoose81613
Humboldt8125
Shelby80511
Emmet79026
Guthrie78315
Franklin76421
Jefferson7635
Madison7265
Unassigned7090
Palo Alto6744
Keokuk6567
Pocahontas6024
Howard5859
Ida54915
Osceola5461
Greene5422
Montgomery51411
Clarke5064
Davis4839
Taylor4833
Monona4567
Adair4539
Monroe45113
Worth3881
Fremont3823
Van Buren3815
Decatur3410
Lucas3416
Audubon3112
Wayne3087
Ringgold2432
Adams1812
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