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 7:10 PM
Updated: Aug 17, 2020 7:10 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.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1097128

Reported Deaths: 17438
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1437882222
Lake712531225
Allen65537867
Hamilton50147482
St. Joseph48760639
Elkhart39461538
Vanderburgh34221495
Tippecanoe30237271
Johnson27179463
Hendricks25845379
Porter25014381
Madison20656444
Clark19898275
Vigo18764308
LaPorte16857260
Delaware16425291
Howard16408311
Monroe16379217
Kosciusko13936163
Hancock12841185
Bartholomew12686188
Warrick11995189
Wayne11879265
Floyd11869225
Grant11701235
Morgan10252188
Boone9675120
Noble9069121
Henry9002165
Marshall8907146
Dearborn881799
Dubois8710139
Shelby8054128
Cass8014127
Lawrence7922182
DeKalb7591106
Huntington7448108
Jackson743893
Gibson7002118
Montgomery6910123
Harrison685296
Knox6827113
Steuben654186
Miami6477107
Whitley642260
Putnam631982
Clinton618976
Wabash6060108
Jasper601791
Jefferson5689103
Ripley549192
Adams532381
Daviess5003116
Scott480378
Wells471799
White468767
Greene461799
Clay457462
Decatur4529109
Jennings439666
Fayette435694
LaGrange419290
Posey403244
Washington384154
Randolph3818107
Fountain368362
Spencer355846
Fulton355572
Starke348772
Owen346276
Sullivan344954
Orange324470
Jay318650
Rush298332
Carroll289438
Franklin286744
Perry283253
Vermillion280458
Tipton247365
Parke246330
Pike244144
Blackford218044
Pulaski205658
Newton179052
Brown171850
Crawford167929
Benton163217
Martin150819
Switzerland145112
Warren132216
Union117816
Ohio91413
Unassigned0585

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1683472

Reported Deaths: 26483
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1766331826
Cuyahoga1641462636
Hamilton1122641528
Montgomery794721387
Summit702171199
Lucas618431017
Butler55878803
Stark525841170
Lorain41058639
Warren35404412
Mahoning35095769
Lake31445493
Clermont30711362
Delaware26682182
Trumbull26664611
Licking26200335
Medina25291351
Fairfield24173287
Greene24051369
Clark21653387
Portage20709280
Richland20587336
Wood19626246
Allen18542320
Miami17031348
Columbiana16502331
Muskingum16416206
Wayne15432304
Tuscarawas14086357
Marion13054194
Erie12423198
Ashtabula12314225
Scioto12235182
Pickaway12070151
Ross11487223
Hancock11256173
Geauga10666174
Lawrence10504171
Belmont10259231
Huron9588155
Jefferson9462225
Union939175
Sandusky9068166
Seneca8692156
Knox8618169
Washington8613156
Athens827396
Darke8270179
Ashland7840147
Auglaize7741115
Shelby7337132
Defiance7210114
Crawford7082150
Brown7052115
Fulton7016111
Logan6857108
Mercer681697
Guernsey680283
Highland6615117
Madison641389
Clinton6388106
Williams628798
Preble6171139
Putnam6089120
Jackson572396
Champaign568286
Perry558879
Coshocton5552103
Ottawa553599
Morrow506464
Fayette483170
Hardin477899
Gallia462978
Pike459076
Van Wert454691
Adams4514109
Henry424976
Hocking401493
Holmes3939137
Wyandot367973
Carroll351578
Paulding319349
Meigs302457
Monroe231860
Noble216447
Morgan210138
Harrison205152
Vinton183937
Unassigned05
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The warming trend is expected to continue through Thursday before cooler air returns to the Midwest.
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