Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer accused the Trump administration Wednesday of "concealing" the White House's role in the selection of Louis DeJoy, the embattled new chief of the U.S. Postal Service.
The New York Democrat's accusation came in a letter to USPS Board of Governors Chairman Robert Duncan demanding transparency about the decision to select DeJoy, a major Republican donor and ally of President Donald Trump, as postmaster general.
Schumer's sharp criticism sets a combative tone two days before DeJoy is scheduled to testify before a Senate committee about his overhaul of the agency, which has come under intense scrutiny amid the coronavirus pandemic and the 2020 election.
DeJoy, 63, has faced a mounting pressure campaign to reverse a series of significant cost-cutting measures that have led to reports of widespread mail delays. His changes, which reportedly include cutting overtime and halting late-day delivery trips, have fueled fears from Democrats about the integrity of the 2020 presidential election, in which more Americans than ever are expected to vote by mail because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Those fears were exacerbated by Trump's repeated claims that mail-in voting will lead to massive voter fraud that will compromise the election. Experts say those claims are unfounded.
In mid-June, Schumer had asked the board for a series of documents and information related to its search process. The secretary of the board, Michael Elston, responded in early July that "with respect to the specific information you requested, much of it is confidential."
The USPS board selected DeJoy in May to be postmaster general. He began work in the role in June.
Schumer's letter said his staff had attempted to set up a briefing with a leader from the Russell Reynolds executive search firm that had been involved in DeJoy's selection process. But counsel for Russell Reynolds replied that the USPS board was unwilling to waive a nondisclosure agreement, blocking the firm from fully participating in the congressional oversight efforts, according to Schumer's letter.
Schumer also wrote that officials in the White House and the Treasury Department, including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, had played roles in the selection. "As part of my inquiry, my office learned of the role [Mnuchin] had with Postal Board of Governors, including through meetings with individual Governors as well as phone calls with groups of Governors, which has not been previously disclosed by the Board," the letter said.
"This administration has repeatedly pointed to the role of Russell Reynolds to defend the selection of a Republican mega-donor with no prior postal experience as Postmaster General while at the same time blocking the ability of Congress to obtain briefings from the firm and concealing the role of Secretary Mnuchin and the White House in its search process," Schumer said in the letter.
A spokesman for USPS did not immediately respond to CNBC's request for comment on Schumer's letter to Duncan. The Treasury did not immediately provide comment.
On Tuesday, DeJoy announced in a statement that some proposed changes at the Postal Service would be suspended until after the election in order to "avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail."
DeJoy's statement said that retail hours at post offices will not be changed, mail processing facilities will not be closed and that mail processing equipment will not be moved. He also said that "overtime has, and will continue to be, approved as needed."
But some critics, including Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., say DeJoy's assurances aren't enough.
A group of leading Democratic senators on Monday urged the Postal Service board to reverse DeJoy's changes, and remove him from his role if he doesn't comply.
On Wednesday, 90 Democrats took it further, demanding in another letter that the board "immediately" remove DeJoy as postmaster general.
"The damage is already done for veterans and seniors who haven't received medications, families waiting for late paychecks, small businesses missing packages, and voters fearing they may never receive their ballot," said Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., one of the leaders on the letter. "We don't need a temporary suspension of the damage he has done—we need a full reversal. This attack on our democracy is unacceptable and Louis DeJoy must be removed immediately."
-- CNBC's Jacob Pramuk contributed to this report.