WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s former representative in Congress wants him to stop talking about her contested primary race as evidence of mail-in voting struggles and instead focus on the upcoming November election.
“He needs to stop talking about my race and fix the post office,” Rep. Carolyn Maloney told BuzzFeed News during a phone interview.
Maloney, who represents New York’s 12th Congressional District, says the president is using her election to erode voters' confidence in the electoral process. Trump has repeatedly referenced her race during his regular White House coronavirus briefings, telling reporters on Monday to “take a look at the Carolyn Maloney race."
Maloney narrowly defeated her primary opponent Suraj Patel after a nerve-wracking six weeks, during which more than 65,000 mail-in ballots flooded the local Board of Elections from the three-borough district — once home to Trump — because of the coronavirus. Patel has not conceded the race, as he pushes for more mail-in votes to be counted.
In briefings last week, Trump called the primary a “disaster” and at one point called for a recount.
“I think you probably have to take the Carolyn Maloney race and run it over again,” Trump told reporters. “They are six weeks into it now and they have no clue what’s going on, and I think I can say right here and now, you have to rerun that race because it’s a mess.”
Patel on Monday tweeted that he’s “angry” that Trump “politicizes the post office, undermines vote by mail, and baselessly conflates the mass disenfranchisement in our race with voter fraud.”
Five states already vote primarily by mail, including Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah, and Washington. Trump has repeatedly suggested mail-in voting would be riddled with fraud and that Maloney’s race is a sign of things to come in November. There is no evidence, however, that mail-in voting is more susceptible to fraud.
“He is undermining the confidence of the election process,” Maloney told BuzzFeed News. “I feel, you know, he’s concerned because he’s losing in the polls to Joe Biden and he’s been trying to undermine confidence in the November election.”
Trump has also suggested the United States Postal Service is unable to handle the avalanche of ballots expected in November.
Democrats expressed those same fears, particularly after Trump campaign donor Postmaster General Louis DeJoy announced he’d make operational changes to the agency before the November election. The reorganization displaces and reassigns nearly three dozen agency executives, according to a company memo. The restructuring reportedly gives DeJoy more power. Democrats are also broadly concerned with the Postal Service's budget and have looked to boost it in the next possible coronavirus aid package.
“We do need to be helping the post office — not cutting funds, underfunding them, and making major changes to it,” Maloney said. “We need the post office in top form for the November election.” Maloney said she’s spoken to local postal representatives and confirmed that during her race, Postal Service employees worked late into the night and were paid overtime.
On Aug. 7, Maloney, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and other lawmakers wrote a letter to the inspector general of the Postal Service expressing their concerns about DeJoy’s operational changes, including denying overtime and cutting hours at certain post offices.
DeJoy is expected to appear before the House Oversight Committee on Sept. 17. In the meantime, Maloney told BuzzFeed News she’ll be holding roundtables on the issue as well as touring processing plants during the House’s month-long in-district period.
Trump will, however, continue to hold his briefings.
“I think that he is angry that I was one of the leaders in the impeachment process,” Maloney told BuzzFeed News. “I think he considers himself above the law since the GOP refused to remove him from office.”
Correction: A postmaster general is appointed by the Postal Service Board of Governors, whose governors are nominated by the president. A previous version of this story misstated how a postmaster general is appointed.