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World News

Mnuchin says he was not involved in postmaster general selection

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Thursday he played no role in the selection of a supporter of President Donald Trump as the head of the U.S. Postal Service, even as a former official accused him of interfering in agency operations.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin speaks to reporters in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S. July 29, 2020. REUTERS/Erin Scott

Democrats have harshly criticized Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, who was tapped by the board of governors to take over in June. Mnuchin said he was “surprised” to learn that DeJoy was a finalist for a job.

After heavy criticism, DeJoy said Tuesday he suspended all “operational initiatives” on the Postal Service through Election Day to “avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail.”

Separately, David C. Williams, the former vice chairman of U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors who stepped down in April, said Mnuchin had “politicized” the agency and suggested “decision making” for the Postal Service “was largely transferred to the Secretary of Treasury.”

He also said Mnuchin required appointees to the board and Postal Regulatory Commission “come to his office to kiss the ring and receive his blessing before confirmation.”

He asserted in testimony before the Congressional Progressive Caucus that Mnuchin “continued contacts” with Republican appointees “issuing orders and expressing his approval and disappointment with their performance.”

President Donald Trump has repeatedly criticized the Postal Service and questioned agreements with Amazon.com AMZN.O to deliver packages, saying it was undercharging the company and has expressed ire with Amazon's chief executive, Jeff Bezos.

DeJoy is set to appear before a U.S Senate panel on Friday.

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee chairman Ron Johnson, a Republican, said DeJoy has “been subjected to character assassination as Democrats have put him in the crosshairs of another hyperbolic false narrative perpetrated to gain political advantage.”

The U.S. House of Representatives will vote Saturday on legislation that would require same-day processing for mail-in ballots and give the cash-strapped Postal Service a $25 billion infusion while erasing changes pursued by DeJoy.

Democrats and other critics have accused Trump of trying to impair the Postal Service to suppress mail-in voting as he trails Democratic challenger Joe Biden in opinion polls ahead of the Nov. 3 election.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chris Reese

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