United States Postmaster General Louis DeJoy should not have been chosen for his post due to apparent conflicts of interest that made him ineligible, expert witnesses told Congress on Monday.
That is what Richard Painter, a former top ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush, and David Fineman, former chairman of the U.S.P.S. Board of Governors under the Bill Clinton and Bush administrations, said before the House Overisight Committee.
DeJoy’s $30 million stake in his former logistics company, XPO Logistics, which is a major contractor for the Postal Service and has received $14 million from the agency since DeJoy was appointed in June, should have posed far too great a risk for a criminal financial conflict of interest, the men testified to the House Oversight Committee.
In addition, the witnesses said that if DeJoy had been properly vetted before being appointed by the board of governors, they could have uncovered allegations of potential campaign violations reported by The Washington Post earlier this month.
“You do not get that job if you keep stock in a contractor with your agency,” Painter said. “That is a deal breaker because you could go into public office and commit a felony. It would have been a deal breaker in the Bush administration. We would not have nominated, appointed or approved—in any way—a senior Executive Branch official having that conflict of interest.”
Painter said the same rule holds true with government agencies.
“You don’t go to the Department of Defense and own stock with defense contractors,” he told the congressional panel.
DeJoy was chosen by the board of governors only after an outside executive search firm vetted and helped narrow down hundreds of potential candidates to just a dozen. But DeJoy was not one of those candidates. Instead, he was approved by the board after he was recommended by Board of Governors Chairman Robert Duncan, a President Donald Trump appointee, and was not vetted by the outside firm.
“If you’re asking me whether I would have chosen [DeJoy], the answer would be no,” Fineman said, responding to a question from Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.). “It’s apparent that there was a conflict of interest to begin with, that he still had an interest in one of the largest contractors with the United States Postal Service.”
The hearing was meant to examine DeJoy’s conflicts of interest as Democrats investigate problems at the Postal Service that arose after DeJoy assumed his role this summer. In recent months under his leadership, the agency has been inundated with mail delivery delays.
Democrats allege that DeJoy has purposely made changes that hinder its operations ahead of an election that will feature a record influx of mail-in ballots. DeJoy is a Trump ally and GOP megadonor, something Democrats often highlight as a political conflict of interest.
The Post reported that DeJoy urged employees at his former company, New Breed Logistics, which was acquired by XPO in 2014, to donate to Trump’s campaign, and that he later reimbursed them for those donations.
Such allegations, if true, would be campaign finance violations and tantamount to lying to Congress—both felonies. Just days before the Post‘s report, DeJoy publicly denied under oath at a congressional hearing that he committed such a crime, after a question was posed by a Democratic lawmaker.
Republicans derided Monday’s hearing, labeling it “utter nonsense,” “an absolute farce” and a “sham hearing” that was conducted for purely political purposes.
“This is all about politics. It’s really not about the Post Office. The witnesses reflect that,” Rep. Gary Palmer (R-Ala.) said. “It’s remarkable some of the claims made by these individuals.”
The hearing became tense at times in exchanges between Painter and Republicans.
Painter is now a professor at the University of Minnesota Law School, and he was the only witness to testify in person. He is a frequent critic of Trump.
Although he was a lifelong Republican until 2018 and is now an Independent, Painter ran as a Democrat in 2018 in an unsuccessful bid to unseat incumbent Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.).
“We have a law school lecturer who has determined guilt based from a Washington Post article,” Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.) said. “I don’t see that as being very professional at all. This is not oversight. This is an attempt to create political assassination.”
Painter insisted that the allegations against DeJoy should be investigated.
“It is a false statement I assumed guilt,” Painter said. “But if those stories are true, what is described in those stories is multiple felonies. It must be investigated.”
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