The Postal Service's inspector general is reviewing a number of things related to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, including his own financial conflicts of interest that seem to be unresolved while he takes the helm of this agency. Interview with Senator Jon Tester of Montana. Postal workers raised alarms about delays under new Trump policy.
ZERLINA MAXWELL, MSNBC HOST: That is "ALL IN" for this Friday night. I'm Zerlina Maxwell.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Zerlina, good evening. It is fascinating and fantastic and awesome and cool to see you in that anchor chair. It is great to have you here on a weeknight. Thank you so much for doing this.
MAXWELL: Thank you.
MADDOW: Fantastic show. Awesome.
And thanks to all of you at home for joining us this hour.
It is Friday. There is a lot going on. It is very good to have you here.
The theme of the night in today's news is that it works when you fight. It works when you push back -- not always -- and almost never immediately. But when you are being pushed around and you are mad about it and somebody's messing stuff up that shouldn't be messed with, pushing back is a good idea, because not pushing back never works. And pushing back sometimes does.
For example, it seems to have worked tonight to stop the Trump administration from stealing your mailbox, from literally snatching your local mailbox off that corner in your neighborhood where it has been forever. You may have seen some of these pictures this week of trucks going around, flatbed trucks with a whole bunch of our mailboxes piled up in the back as workers unbolt them from the sidewalk, remove them, put them in a truck and drive them away.
They've been going around unbolting these things and taking them. But apparently as of tonight they are going to stop doing that, at least for now, at least until after the election. Because of the pushback they've had against it.
And this is important as a matter of principle and I think in terms of understanding where we're at as Americans. It's also like a substantively interesting and important part of this story we have been covering now for a few weeks. But let's -- in all of the coverage that we've done about the Postal Service and the president saying he's going to sabotage it in order to stop it from -- stop the Postal Service from being able to handle mailed-in ballots for the election, all the elements that we have covered around this story for the last couple of weeks. I feel like the one thing we haven't done is really talk about where this starts and it turns out it's really gross.
Just a few weeks after Trump was inaugurated, the Republican National Committee, National Republican Party, they sent out a press release announcing effectively that the Republican Party and the Trump universe were now melded, that the Trump guys would be coming in and taking over. Now, I have to tell you, they have since taken down that press release we just put up on the screen. They've made no mention of the fact they deleted it. They've just tried to disappear it, because they're embarrassed about it now.
But nothing ever really goes away on the internet, and we captured it. So we still have it even though they've deleted it. And even now, three-plus years after they put this up, it is still amazing to see.
Look, today, Republican National Committee Finance Chairman Steve Wynn announced additional members of the RNC's finance leadership team, describing these long-time friends of the party and supporters of this administration. Quote: Elliott Broidy, Michael Cohen and Louis DeJoy will serve as national deputy finance chairmen of the RNC. This was April 3rd, 2017.
Trump gets sworn in in January. The Republican Party announces like, you know, six weeks later or eight weeks later, okay, now all our money guys for the party are going to be these Trump guys.
But look at who they announce. The new deputy finance chairs of the RNC. Number one is Michael Cohen. The same Michael Cohen ultimately convicted on multiple felonies, sentenced to years in federal prison, currently out on home release because of the coronavirus and about to release a tell-all book in which he says he's going to describe multiple crimes he committed with the president, first RNC finance co-chair announced in April 2017 by the Republican Party.
Second RNC finance co-chair announced in April 2017 by the Republican Party is this guy, Elliott Broidy, who had previously pled guilty to bribing multiple New York state officials, was only spared prison time after he flipped and turned state's evidence. That was in his record before they picked him.
After they picked him in the Trump era, Elliott Broidy has been in the headlines for lots of things. For example, as the reported subject of multiple federal grand jury investigations into various corruption schemes. Also, you might remember when this guy from the Trump campaign effort, George Nader, was recently sent to prison for 10 years as a convicted child sex trafficker, one of the unresolved matters in the George Nader case was why George Nader gave Elliott Broidy $2.5 million in 2018 before he went off to prison as a pedophile.
Elliott Broidy did end up stepping down from his RNC finance chairman role when it turned out that he too used all the same lawyers and all the same documents and all the same weird legal tricks to make his own hush money payments to a woman he'd had an affair with just like the president did with Michael Cohen as a felony campaign finance violation in 2016.
So, yeah, here's the press release again, right? Announcing the new money men for the National Republican Party in the Trump era. Number one, Michael Cohen. That did not work out well. Number two, Elliott Broidy. That did not work out well.
But also, Steve Wynn, the RNC finance chairman who is announcing that he's picking these guys as his top deputies. Steve Wynn, of course, also would soon have to go. Resigning from the RNC as its finance chairman amid sexual harassment allegations that led him ton only give up the top money job with the Republican Party, he also had to give up ownership of his own gigantic company and pay his company $20 million.
So that was really -- I mean, this one document, I understand why the RNC has delete td now, right? This is one for the ages. Just weekends into the Trump era Michael Cohen, Elliott Broidy, Steve Wynn, they'll be taking over money matters for the Republican Party, right? All the best people.
But then there's one other guy on the list, Louis DeJoy. He alongside Michael Cohen and Elliott Broidy and Steve Wynn was the guy announced in that press release. Louis DeJoy is now Trump's appointee as postmaster general, the guy who Trump has installed to take over the post office as the president embarks on an admitted overt campaign to mess up the mail, to mess up the post office so it can't handle the ballots that are going to be mailed in for the election.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They need that money in order to have the post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots. If we don't make a deal, that means they don't get the money. That means they can't have universal mail-in voting. They just can't have it.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: The president appointed this guy, Louis DeJoy, Republican fund-raiser with no experience in postal anything other than him being invested heavily in companies that compete against the Post Office, and so he would therefore personally financially benefit if the post office fails under his leadership. President Trump installed him in office in May. Mr. DeJoy immediately instituted changes to deliberately slow down mail delivery, admitting that would be a consequence of the policy changes that he was instituting.
He was soon summoned to meet with top congressional leaders to explain what he was doing to deliberately slow down mail delivery. Although the president recently told reporters he has never spoken to Louis DeJoy as postmaster general, the "Washington Post" now reports that in fact right before Louis DeJoy went to that meeting with congressional Democrats, he met with the president in the oval office. Why is the president lying about the fact that he has been talking to this guy since he's been postmaster general? And why does the postmaster general need to meet personally with the president in the Oval Office before he goes to Congress to face questions about him deliberately slowing down the mail in advance of the election?
Well, he did have that meeting in the Oval Office with the president, which the president lied about. Then he went and had that meeting with congressional leaders. And that night after he met with congressional leaders, Louis DeJoy, late on a Friday night, removed nearly two dozen senior executives at the post office from their jobs.
These are people who oversee mail delivery and its logistics. He took them all out of their jobs late on a Friday night so as to concentrate the power and control over mail delivery in himself.
Then we started to learn that it wasn't just these policy changes that deliberately slowed down the mail, ordering postal workers to work less and to leave mail behind. We started to learn from postal workers even though there had been no public announcement about it that they were removing sorting equipment, removing the machines that sort the mail from post office all over the country. Multiple news agencies have now obtained internal documents from the Postal Service that show that yes, they are pulling more than 670 bulk sorting machines out of postal facilities all over the country.
As "The Washington Post" puts it today, these machines are mostly being pulled from, quote, high population areas, which translates in electoral terms of course to places where Democrats live.
After local press around the country started to discover there had been notification letters from the Postal Service to individual states warning them that the post office under Louis DeJoy doesn't plan to get ballots in in time to be counted under the time frames that states have set up for voters this fall, "The Washington Post" was first to report today that it's actually 46 states and D.C. that have received these notices from the Postal Services, effectively saying we don't plan to get voters' ballots in on time to be counted.
You 46 states and D.C., you'd better figure something else out. These plans that you have for vote by mail, we don't think they're going to work.
The slowdowns in the mail already are having a material effect on people's lives. Just anecdotally I will tell you, we've set up this website, www.sendittorachel.com. And that means that we get a lot of direct feedback from you guys. We get also Twitter direct messages and all e-mails and all -- voicemails and all the other ways you guys are able to get in touch with us.
I've never asked for any viewer feedback on this subject. But anecdotally here at the show we have been sort of flooded with unsolicited accounts. People wanting us to know that their prescriptions are arriving late, their bills are getting to them late, and/or their payments of their bills are being delayed when they send them back in the mail, so people are getting late fees from paying their various bills and in some cases that's messing with their credit ratings.
Small business owners, who have always relied on Postal Service shipping, have been volunteering to us, to me and this cable news show, I think just because we've been covering this story like everybody else, business owners have been contacting us to tell us how much their businesses are getting screwed up now by brand new shipping delays they never had before and mail delays and stuff just not working with the mail the way it always has before.
And there isn't some glitch and something that's going wrong at the Postal Service. This isn't a COVID thing. This is deliberate stuff. This is a deliberate sabotage of what the Postal Service does. They are messing it up on purpose.
And Louis DeJoy admits that the stuff that he has done, yeah, it seems to be slowing down deliveries. But in the long run it will be all for the good.
But that material effect on people's lives and the way we all depend on the mail, it has led to a couple of interesting things that we are now seeing in the wild. One is that -- and this sort of like plucks all my heartstrings all at once just as a civics dork. We at least are seeing in public, on social media, and in our own anecdotal communications with our viewers, we're seeing people ask what they can do, how they can help.
People have been writing to us, people have been writing online to like the postal workers unions literally asking if they as citizens can volunteer to help sort the mail or, you know, to make meals for postal workers or can they raise funds for their local post office, what can they do? You know, we pay for the Postal Services with stamps. We also pay for it with our taxes.
We shouldn't have to do any of that. It's the U.S. Postal Service. We're already paying for it. But we're seeing out there organically that people really don't want the freaking mail messed with. They want to help. They want to protect the Postal Service. And they also are mad at people who are messing with it.
In Little Midland, Michigan, which is not far from Saginaw, Michigan, this week, we saw in the local press there that local folks organized a support the post office protest in their town. "The A.P." and the local paper, "The Midland Daily News" of Michigan, they got some of these great photos from this protest, which I think is something you're probably likely to see in lots of other places in America.
You see there "U.S. mail not for sale," "Support the mail, stamp out the postmaster general," or this one, "Want to screw up the election? Screw up the post office." Or this one, "How is slowing down the post office making America great again?"
"The Midland Daily News" sent a reporter to cover the protests as well. Quote, "many drivers passing by the crowd of protesters honked their horns and waved in support. The protesters themselves waved and cheered every time a Postal Service vehicle drove by."
So, people aren't mad at their postal workers. They're not mad at their letter carriers. They're not mad at their local post office. They want to defend it. And support the people who work there who have always done a good job by us as Americans.
The post office is an earnest, beloved, all-American, non-partisan practical part of our lives. You mess with it and you are messing with a lot of Americans, who apparently are in the mood to push back. And I will tell you, as this story has grown, right?
The appointment of this inexperienced, you know, RNC deputy finance chairman Trump donor who comes in and immediately slows down the mail, that we find out later that he's pulled the sorting machines out of all these facilities -- you know, we've been finding this stuff out piece by piece. Outreach has been growing.
People are already feeling the pain. And in the midst of all of this, amid what amounts to also this growing rage about what's happening here, we really have seen them start to steal our mailboxes. Pictures from Oregon I think were the first to raise worries all over the place. Although I think initially seeing these images from Oregon nobody knew if it was maybe some kind of local issue or local glitch there.
But then look at this. Maritsa Georgiou, who's a reporter at the local NBC affiliate in Montana, today spent all day chasing the story about this happening in Montana too. The story about as she kept on covering it piece by piece updating her reporting on Twitter all day today, until she broadcast on NBC's Montana affiliate tonight, a long piece in their local coverage.
She uncovered the story this was not just happening in Montana but it was happening in Montana in a big way. A really large number of public mailboxes being taken away in Montana. More than 40 percent of the mailboxes in Missoula they're going to take away? At least 50 percent of the mailboxes in Billings?
Why do those need to be taken away? What the heck are they doing with them?
Maritsa Georgiou obtained internal documents from the Post Office in Montana documenting all the boxes workers had been told remove. And she and her colleagues went through them one by one and documented where those postboxes are. You can see their list.
You know, next to the YMCA, outside the Orange Street Food Farm, a popular grocery store, in front of the Missoula county courthouse, downtown in front of a large senior citizen living facility. Why are these being taken away?
Democratic U.S. Senator Jon Tester from Montana was already on this as of last night, writing to Postmaster Louis DeJoy to ask him why the Trump administration is taking away all these mailboxes in Montana.
After the day's worth of reporting on this today when the NBC affiliate contacted the state's Republican senator, Steve Danes, and the Republican member of Congress there, Greg Gianforte, to get their comment on this as well, they both decided that, yeah, yeah, they too better write to Louis DeJoy and show some outrage here. Because who's going to defend this?
I mean, if the Trump administration thinks that Republican voters can somehow be talked into the idea that slowing down the mail and stealing all the mailboxes is great for America and therefore Republican senators and members of Congress will go along with it and cheer for it, that just might need more thought given the way 9 post office works in all of our lives.
The U.S. Postal Service is more American than apple pie. And I mean in a very specific sense. Apple pie does not have its own line in the U.S. Constitution. The post office does.
It is a necessity. It is uncontroversial. It is integrated into the fabric of our lives. It is how we get prescriptions, particularly if we are veterans or senior citizens or if we live in rural areas. It's how we all get packages, which we get more of than ever because of the COVID crisis.
It's how we get our bills. It's how we get our letters. It's how we get our ballots now because of the COVID crisis. It's the fricking fracking mail. We need it.
What do they think they can get away with here? Multiple secretaries of state, Republican and Democrat, from red states and blue states, have asked Louis DeJoy to meet with them. NPR was first to report that he is ignoring them and no such meeting has been scheduled. I mean, them getting rid of the sorting machines at postal facilities and then the mailboxes from your local street corner, this is something they made no announcement about. They made no public announcement they were going to do this.
We had to have it told to us by postal workers and by people who observed the trucks going around picking up the mailboxes. I guess they thought they wouldn't ever have to answer for this stuff?
But this is a fight against a thing that Americans actually and quite broadly love and respect and don't want to go away. This is the kind of fight that most Americans have a side they want to be on and it is not the side that is stealing the mailboxes and telling us that, yeah, I don't think it's going to work out for you to get your ballot in on time.
But the important thing here is that pushback works. After a day of all this reporting today on the situation in Montana and the outrage that ensued and the complaints first from the Democratic U.S. senator there and thereafter, from the Republican senator, Republican member of Congress, Maritsa Georgiou and her colleagues at NBC Montana were the first to report they had confirmed with the Postal Service that yeah, they were backing down, that the Postal Service in Montana would stop what they were doing in Montana, plans to take away 40 percent and 50 percent of the mailboxes in Montana's biggest towns. They would stop that. They would put that on hold.
And then just before we got on the air tonight the Postal Service confirmed it nationally, because they were working on doing this nationally. But now with the pushback they're going to put that on hold. They are going to stop taking the mailboxes away. The Postal Service confirming tonight, quote: we are not going to be removing any boxes. After the election, we're going to take a look at operations and see what we need and don't need.
They were planning on doing this everywhere. And then people got really mad when they noticed them doing it. And they screamed and yelled. And that stopped them.
In this era, especially as we are getting closer and closer to the election and this stuff is getting more and more blatant and overt, hoping for the best doesn't work, right? Shame doesn't work. We've seen the president flat out admit, right? That he's doing this stuff for the reasons we know he's doing it. Hope doesn't work, shame doesn't work.
But noise does, it turns out. Not always. But it's sort of the only thing that's working now. Locally focused outrage and complaint and hard questions and we're not going to take it sometimes works. At least it did today in Montana and then very soon thereafter nationwide.
You can thank Montana I believe for having saved your state from going through this same thing maybe even before the rest of us knew it was starting to happen. We have been watching this story evolve all day in Montana with the NBC affiliate in Montana doing such brilliant work on this.
When we found out that the pressure had worked and that the Montana Postal Service was changing its plans and then nationally they were putting these plans on hold, we contacted Senator Jon Tester's office to talk to him about it. They initially told us he could not join us tonight because he is harvesting winter wheat right now on his farm.
We fact-checked him. We can confirm in fact that is what he has been doing. But after allowing us to badger his staff all day, Senator Tester did graciously agree to leave his tractor and join us tonight, at least for a second, before he has to get back to work.
Joining us now fresh from harvesting the winter wheat is Montana's senior senator, Jon Tester.
Sir, thank you very much for joining us this evening. I know the opportunity cost of what you're not able to do right now because you're here.
SEN. JON TESTER (D-MT) (via telephone): Well, look, I wish I was with you via video. Obviously I'm on the wrong side of the digital divide. But I just want to thank you, Rachel, for this.
The Postal Service is so critically important to all of America but particularly to rural America. I don't know what the Postal Service is doing. Their actions raise more questions than they answer.
But I am happy that they put a pause on the removal of the collection boxes across Montana and across the country. But this is just ridiculous.
As you already pointed out, the Postal Service is in our Constitution. The Postal Service is really important. It's not only important for voting and ballots, it's important for prescription drugs and Social Security checks and making sure people get parts for their equipment or for their home.
And the fact is what this postmaster general is doing, who by the way has no business being postmaster general, is ridiculous. It's ridiculous, just trying to destroy part of the lifeblood of this great country.
MADDOW: We saw the announcement today that the Postal Service's inspector general is reviewing a number of things related to Postmaster DeJoy, including his own financial conflicts of interest that seem to be unresolved while he takes the helm of this agency. And while I think that's good news in terms of accountability with some of the things he's clearly trying to do to this agency and some questions about him being at the helm, I am very conscious of the time here and how close we're getting to the election, especially not just for election day but for the kinds of deadlines or pseudo deadlines we all have in mind in terms of how quickly we need to vote and get our votes in in order to have them count in November.
It really does seem like you complaining alongside the Republican members of your congressional delegation in Montana, it seems like you guys complaining stopped this in Montana and then that helped stop this nationwide.
Do you think that same kind of pressure, particularly in a bipartisan way, might also help get the sorting machines back, might also help reverse the personnel policy changes that have slowed down the mail already, might fix some of the rest of this?
TESTER: Absolutely. I think that the challenge that I have right now is that I'm in the minority in the United States Senate. Mitch McConnell has been walking hand in hand with Donald Trump. And make no mistake about it, the postmaster general is taking his orders from the president of the United States.
He doesn't want the Postal Service to be what it's been throughout this country's history, and because of the election. He doesn't want everybody to have their votes counted. I think it's pretty obvious by his statements.
So yes, it would help greatly if folks on the other side of the aisle would say this is crazy, this president is on the wrong path, he's taking the country down the wrong path, we need to make sure we save our post office and a lot of other things in this country that are being blown up by the president.
MADDOW: Montana Senator Jon Tester -- sir, again, thank you for cutting into your schedule. I know harvest time is super busy for you and that's no joke. Thanks for taking time to help us with this today and thanks for helping save the post office today.
TESTER: Absolutely. Thank you. Thank you, Rachel. This is really an important issue for rural America. I'll just tell you that. Thank you.
MADDOW: I know that for sure. Thank you, sir.
All right. We've got much more to come tonight, including we're going to be talking with the person inside the system who I believe was the first person in the country to alert the nation that something weird and very hard to reverse was going on in terms of the way the Trump administration is trying to break the Postal Service. This person who let the country know about one of the first and worst things they've been doing is going to join us here live next.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: You know how sometimes you get a piece of mail and it has a little bar code printed on it or printed on a little sticker that's been stuck to it, a little bar code?
Look, here's what I learned today. This is a delivery bar code sorter. When it is running at peak performance, it can process 36,000 pieces of mail per hour, one machine.
Mail gets -- look at that. Mail gets fed into the machine, the machine then reads the bar code printed on the envelope or the postcard. That information is then used to sort the mail into hundreds of different slots. Each headed to a different delivery area. Tens of thousands of pieces of mail run through one of these machines every hour so they can be correctly sorted for delivery.
And now without any announcement about it and without any explanation, we have learned from postal workers that hundreds of those, hundreds of delivery bar code sorters as well as other key pieces of sorting equipment, are being removed out of postal facilities all over the country. They're not just being turned off or postal workers are being told not to use them. They're actually being taken away.
"Vice News", their tech division, Motherboard, was first to report yesterday that these machines were being removed without any official explanation or reason given. As reporter Aaron Gordon pointed out, quote, in many cases, these are the same machines that would be tasked with sorting ballots.
Now, that's certainly jarring news. But when "Vice" first reported that, we didn't have a sense of just how big this Postal Service plan might be, until today. "Vice" has now obtained documents showing that the Postal Service is taking more than 500 delivery bar code sorters out of service. In addition to more than 100 other major pieces of key sorting equipment. They're all just being decommissioned, being taken offline.
Again, not just turned off or unplugged but taken away. Even though the Postal Service had previously said it was moving equipment around its network to optimize processing, what this document shows is that they really are just getting rid of this stuff altogether, they're not moving it to other places to use it somewhere else they're just getting rid of it.
Quote: Multiple sources within the Postal Service told "Vice News" they have personally witnessed the machines which cost millions of dollars being destroyed or thrown in the dumpster.
Postal workers have unions. Union officials have said the results of these plans was clear. Quote: This will slow mail processing.
The story is now getting bigger by the hour. But I have to tell you, this part of the story about what the Trump administration is doing to the post office on purpose in advance of the election when we're all about to start voting by mail, this whole part of the story all started with one person. The first person who alerted the whole country that this kind of thing was happening is a woman named Kimberly Karol.
She's president of the Iowa postal workers union. She's a long-time postal clerk from the great city of Waterloo, Iowa. And she did an interview with NPR this week in which she surprised her interviewer by saying something that had not been reported anywhere else. Quote: Mail is beginning to pile up in our offices and we're seeing equipment being removed.
The news was such a surprise that the NPR interviewer was sort of caught off guard by what Ms. Carroll said, asked her to explain. She explained that sorting machines were being removed at her own facility in Waterloo and at postal facilities across Iowa. And she made it clear that this was not about trying to help save money, this was not growing to save money. Quote: I don't see this as a cost-saving measure. I see this as a way to undermine the public confidence in the mail service.
Well, joining us now is Kimberly Karol, president of the Iowa Postal Workers Union and a postal clerk in Waterloo, Iowa.
Ms. Karol, thanks for your work at the Postal Service, your work in the union, and thanks for helping alert the country that this was going on. We didn't know before you said it.
KIMBERLY KAROL, PRESIDENT, IOWA POSTAL WORKERS UNION: Well, I appreciate that you have taken up the story and made the public aware of what's happening. So thank you.
MADDOW: Well, you know, it would be a lot easier for us to report on these sort of major and consequential changes at the post office if they were announcing that they were doing these things. Major policy changes at the post office, particularly ones that are going to affect when and whether people get their mail, seem like the sort of thing that we would previously have the post office have put out for public debate, put them out for public comment.
But this stuff with the sorting machines, some of the other things they've done in terms of overtime rules and giving people -- giving postal workers different directions about how to handle mail and when not to bother to deliver it, this has all just been stuff that we found out from you guys. They haven't been making public announcements about these things. At least that's how it seems from the outside. Or is there a part of this that -- a public facing part of this that we've just been missing?
KAROL: No. I think that it was a deliberate act to avoid public comment, because in the past they have tried similar types of changes where they were closing post offices or closing plants. That happened not too very long ago. And the public rallied behind the Postal Service and stopped that. Got a halt to closing plants and post offices in order to protect the service standards and what we do for the public.
So I think it was deliberate to make sure that the public didn't have an opportunity to comment. And get them to stop what they were doing.
MADDOW: Now that we do know what they're doing and people are starting to feel the pain in terms of slowed and more erratic service, what sort of public feedback do you think would make a difference?
We covered a story at the top of the hour about people being very mad about curbside mailboxes, about postal collection boxes being taken off the streets in Montana. That seems to have led to a halt on that practice around the country after some outrage was expressed about it today.
What do you think they will respond to in terms of these things they're doing to slow down the mail?
KAROL: Well, I think the public needs to be communicating directly with the post office and also they need to be hitting their senators to be taking action to take away the justification for all of this. Because let's face it, the reason that they are giving for all of this is a cost-saving measure because of the financial situation that the Postal Service finds itself in.
It's important that the public understands that if we were to get the COVID finance, the COVID relief that that would take away the justification that DeJoy and the Postal Service has for taking these drastic actions so immediately.
So it would be critical for the public to be putting pressure on the Senate to provide us with relief and then make sure that the president doesn't veto that. Unfortunately, we have been a part of all of the relief conversation because we've continued to provide services to the public. But in each and every time that has come up for ratification, we have been essentially line item vetoed before it actually got to the president.
So it's important that we continue to put that kind of pressure. And what happened in Montana is very encouraging to me because that is showing that the pressure does work. So I'm energized by all of that.
MADDOW: Me too. That is -- it's the first encouraging -- I feel like I've been kind of despondent seeing a lot of small D democracy stuff getting undermined and feeling like there wasn't much anybody could do to stop it because it felt sort of extralegal or outside the system.
I think you're right, that it is encouraging to see what happened today in Montana. I will also tell you that it makes a huge difference that you as a postal clerk were able to tell us about them taking that sorting machine out of your office in Waterloo, Iowa, and to let us know that was happening in other offices around Iowa. That is what broke open the story so we knew that some of these unannounced changes were happening at a very serious level all over the country, and we wouldn't have known that without you.
So, Kimberly Karol, president of the Iowa Postal Workers Union, thanks for your service. Thanks for helping us understand what's happening here.
KAROL: Thank you for bringing the story to everyone's attention. Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We've got much more to get to here tonight. Lots more to this story.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: When he left office in January 2017, President Obama said he would save speaking out for only really important things, that he wanted to leave his successor time to be president on his own terms and he wouldn't be constantly haranguing him. But he said he would speak out if something really fundamental was at stake and at risk in our country.
And today, President Obama apparently decided it was one of those times.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT: The Republican Party for quite some time has actively tried to discourage people's votes from counting in all kinds of ways, whether it's voter ID laws or, you know, blatant gerrymandering, making it difficult for people in certain precincts to find their polling places. All that stuff is contrary to American democracy, but you know, I think the Republicans' view has been it's all fair game as long as it helps us gain power.
What we've never seen before is a president say, I'm going to try to actively kneecap the Postal Service to encourage voting and I will be explicit about the reason I'm doing it. That's sort of unheard of.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: President Obama today. That's sort of unheard of.
In practical terms, in terms of dealing with this problem for what the Republican Party and the president are now doing, President Obama said today that people should definitely try to get their ballots in as early as possible. That's, of course, advice that we are hearing from all sorts of places now. That makes very good sense.
But I was super interested to hear him also offer another very specific piece of advice to a very specific group of Americans. A way to help that he's asking people to consider. Again, this was very specific and a quite unique piece of advice.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Understandably, I think a lot of older poll workers are going to be a little more hesitant about exposing themselves to the pandemic. And so, one thing that those of us who are interested in helping democracy, not just the campaign, can do if we're relatively young and healthy and less at risk of serious damage if we contract the disease, is to volunteer as a poll worker. That can be hugely important.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Hugely important. And within reach for those of us who are interested in helping democracy, not just the campaign.
This is not your run-of-the-mill advice from sort of good government types and people who are good citizens, right? President Obama today going out of his way in discussing what's going on around this election to say that specifically if you are young and healthy and you are interested in helping democracy, if you are young and healthy, young and healthy people this year should help protect democracy, should help protect our election this year specifically by volunteering to be a poll worker, because we all know from going in and voting wherever you vote poll workers are always adorable awesome earnest old people. It's always senior citizens.
In the pandemic, we cannot count on them to do that. It's putting them at too much risk. So young humans, young people who are not particularly at risk from getting seriously -- from being seriously -- what did the president put it? People who are at less risk of serious damage in terms of COVID, bless you all.
If you want to do that, you start with a simple Google search of your state wherever you live, Iowa or Missouri or Massachusetts or whatever, and become a poll worker. Put in your state, put in become a poll worker. Just a cursory search using your state's name and become a poll worker will generate state websites that outline how you can become a local poll worker.
And again, this is not something you do for any one campaign. This is something you do on a no-partisan basis just to make sure that the elections go off smoothly, just to do your part.
I will tell you, if you put in Montana and become a poll worker, it doesn't come up with poll worker options, it gives you options for how you can serve as an election judge. Which is actually the same job as poll worker everywhere else, it just has an awesome Montana name. You could be a judge.
All of these states want poll workers. Like every state in the country wants and needs poll workers. They're eager for you to help. They will train you.
If you are young and healthy and you are going to answer President Obama's call on this and that's something you can do, the one piece of advice that I would give you is do not delay. Time is short. You want to get in in time for the training if you want to get involved. Now is your chance to do so. Do your part.
MADDOW: So as we have been talking about tonight, the theme in tonight's news seems like pressure works sometimes when you push back. Today after citizens in Montana, for example, raised a huge ruckus over the Postal Service taking mailboxes off American streets 80 days before an election that will need to be conducted by mail because of the pandemic. In Montana, elected officials, Democrats and Republicans were roused to action and roused to complain. And lo and behold, the postal service responded by saying, okay, we'll stop taking away the mailboxes. We'll do anything more like that until after the election.
First, they said it for Montana. Then they said it for the whole country. Pressure sometimes works.
That idea is kind of the calling card of a group we have been sort of checking in with periodically over the last three and a half years, a group called Indivisible. You remember them as the folks who started off as a Google doc written shortly after the 2016 election. It was written by former Democratic congressional staffers who knew what kinds of constituent pressure members of Congress react to and what kinds they ignore.
They basically wrote this specific instruction manual on how to advocate effectively for your priorities when you don't hold any power. It was very granular, very unsexy stuff that was nevertheless really helpful.
You know, don't know what to say when you call your member of Congress? Here, use a script like this one. Call your own and only your own and here's why. Even if they're good on this issue, call them anyway.
Don't know what to do when you go to the town hall meeting for your senator or Congress member, here, use these step by step instructions for what is the best way to conduct yourself at a town hall.
Indivisible grew to thousands of chapters across the country, not thousands of people, thousands of chapters. And it got me wondering what people who think about this stuff full-time, what they think about this time we're in now, 80 days out from the next presidential election, a presidential election which really does seem like it needs protecting.
There is no instruction manual for this, but pressure did work today. Pressure today did save the mailboxes. What next?
Joining us now is Ezra Levin, co-founder and co-executive director of Indivisible. Again, we've been checking with on and off for the last three and a half years.
Ezra, it's great to see you. Thanks for making time tonight.
EZRA LEVIN, CO-FOUNDER AND CO-EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, INDIVISIBLE: Great to see you, Rachel.
MADDOW: So this sort of feels like a job for regular citizens but also a job for people who think strategically about these things in terms of what works and what doesn't. How are you in your group thinking about the right kind of pressure, the most effective types of public feedback to try to protect the election?
LEVIN: Well, I love that the theme at the top of the hour was special works. I think we could have named the Indivisible guide pressure works instead because that was the basic idea.
And at the heart of it is this idea that regardless of who your representative, who your senator is, that representative, that senator, they will wake up every single morning thinking, how am I going to get re-elected? The answer is they've got to convince their constituents that they're one of the good people in Congress, they're the ones who are actually fighting for them.
And a good way to convince your constituents that you're not one of the good people in Congress, it's to attack the United States Postal Service. As you covered, the United States Postal Service is incredibly popular. Not just among Democrats, among independents, among Republicans, among folks in rural areas, suburban areas, exurban areas, everybody in the United States practically likes the United States Postal Service other than apparently Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump.
And they don't like it for a particular reason. They don't like it because it is a threat to their power. So we think that the tool that everybody watching this right now has in their tool belt is constituent power. Their individual representatives and senators have the power to effect what the USPS does.
So either they make their voice heard in this moment. We continue things. They have already done it. We have seen it earlier. We have been able to roll back some of the sabotage.
But we need to think about how we can roll back all of the sabotage.
MADDOW: Are you heartened at all by this news that the inspector general at the Postal Service is apparently looking into Louis DeJoy? Are you heartened by the calls there ought to be spot lit hearings in the House to get DeJoy and other administration officials there to defend what they're doing?
Do you think that would make a difference or is time too short?
LEVIN: Time is short, so I think it's great that the inspector general is launching an investigation, but we don't have enough time. Currently, the hearings scheduled in the House of Representatives which is controlled by the Democrats, they're not scheduled for another month, until September.
Now, there are representatives like Ayanna Pressley who have called for the House to come back from vacation to start hearings immediately. I think that's a good idea. I think they should do that. I think as soon as next week, we could see emergency hearings and haul DeJoy in front of committee members. I'll haul him in front and have him answer for what he's done.
If he's unwilling to come, then haul his bosses in. There are six members of the board of governors of the postal service. They should also come and answer for what DeJoy is doing. That is power that House Democrats have. And I think they should use it.
So, really, right now, it doesn't matter if you have got a Republican, an independent or a Democratic House member or senator. You should be telling them, hey, we want hearings right now, as long as the House and the Senate are in recess, no member of Congress ought to be able to appear in any kind of public venue, have any virtual town hall without being asked, what are you doing to protect the USPS?
MADDOW: Ezra Levin, co-executive director of Indivisible -- Ezra, thank you very much for sharing your thoughts on this tonight. Good to see you.
LEVIN: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: All right. We'll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: All right. That's going to do it for me tonight, but I want to tell you I will be back on Monday night, but things will look really different because on Monday night we will be covering the Democratic national convention. I'm super nervous. I will see you then.
Now, it's time for "THE LAST WORD" where Ali Velshi is in for Lawrence tonight.
Good evening, Ali.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.END
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