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: 681613

Reported Deaths: 8076
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1403921855
Ramsey58542944
Dakota52093497
Anoka48037479
Washington30637309
Stearns24839240
St. Louis20269335
Scott19626145
Wright18499163
Olmsted15792110
Sherburne13522100
Carver1206952
Clay915295
Rice9104120
Blue Earth866347
Crow Wing7797102
Kandiyohi744188
Chisago711658
Otter Tail666691
Benton6439101
Mower558038
Winona554452
Goodhue550080
Douglas535484
Itasca516671
Beltrami504672
McLeod501463
Steele500921
Isanti490170
Morrison467563
Nobles448650
Becker434559
Polk433675
Freeborn429538
Lyon394254
Carlton389559
Nicollet377647
Pine373726
Mille Lacs354360
Brown346443
Cass343035
Le Sueur340829
Todd321734
Meeker304749
Waseca288625
Martin261933
Wabasha24334
Dodge24064
Hubbard232241
Roseau231723
Houston203816
Renville199548
Redwood198242
Fillmore194710
Pennington190221
Wadena185126
Faribault179725
Cottonwood176624
Sibley175810
Chippewa171239
Kanabec164129
Aitkin155038
Watonwan155011
Rock138519
Jackson134712
Pope13058
Yellow Medicine125120
Pipestone125026
Swift117119
Koochiching116519
Murray115110
Stevens112211
Marshall103518
Clearwater101918
Lake91021
Wilkin89614
Lac qui Parle84824
Big Stone6814
Mahnomen6819
Grant6718
Lincoln6524
Norman6509
Kittson53322
Unassigned51593
Red Lake4777
Traverse4215
Lake of the Woods3884
Cook2120

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 432122

Reported Deaths: 6339
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk67341672
Linn25698353
Scott22828261
Black Hawk19121334
Woodbury16940233
Johnson1659690
Dubuque14547218
Pottawattamie13058183
Dallas12746102
Story1187148
Warren685993
Webster6304102
Cerro Gordo6212102
Clinton620097
Des Moines594482
Muscatine5781108
Unassigned57410
Marshall564280
Sioux542775
Jasper516575
Lee511078
Wapello4993128
Buena Vista472942
Marion449083
Plymouth434083
Henry339940
Jones331158
Bremer325365
Crawford321644
Carroll317053
Washington315754
Benton312656
Boone308736
Mahaska275453
Dickinson270846
Kossuth251471
Jackson246044
Clay245729
Tama238273
Delaware234643
Buchanan233938
Hardin230847
Page221624
Cedar220525
Fayette220345
Wright217641
Winneshiek215937
Hamilton211752
Harrison198875
Clayton194458
Madison193820
Butler188836
Floyd187742
Mills185224
Poweshiek181036
Cherokee179440
Iowa176425
Allamakee176252
Lyon174441
Jefferson169138
Calhoun168313
Hancock167335
Winnebago164231
Grundy158835
Cass155556
Louisa154949
Shelby151739
Appanoose151249
Emmet149541
Franklin148524
Humboldt147226
Sac144722
Union144237
Mitchell141643
Guthrie138132
Chickasaw137518
Palo Alto131124
Clarke125024
Montgomery122239
Keokuk116232
Howard115622
Monroe114033
Ida107538
Davis103125
Pocahontas99023
Greene98012
Adair95334
Monona94733
Lucas94523
Worth9268
Osceola83717
Decatur74510
Fremont74111
Taylor72412
Van Buren70919
Wayne65123
Ringgold62226
Audubon58414
Adams3914
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