(Adds letter, background from Congress)
WASHINGTON, Sept 8 (Reuters) - The head of the House Oversight panel on Tuesday urged the immediate suspension of U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy following reports that he illegally reimbursed former employees for political contributions, and announced an investigation.
House of Representatives Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, said in a statement that if the allegations are true, DeJoy faced “criminal exposure” not only for violating the law with the transactions but also for lying to Congress when he denied making them at a recent hearing.
“We will be investigating this issue, but I believe the (U.S. Postal Service) Board of Governors must take emergency action to immediately suspend Mr. DeJoy, who they never should have selected in the first place,” she said.
The move follows accusations by former workers at DeJoy’s company that he reimbursed employees for campaign contributions to his preferred Republican politicians, an arrangement that would violate federal campaign finance law. The Washington Post and the New York Times both reported the allegations over the weekend, citing multiple unnamed former employees.
Republican President Donald Trump on Monday said he would support an investigation into campaign contributions involving DeJoy, a Trump donor who is already facing a political firestorm after changes he implemented ahead of the Nov. 3 election that critics said could delay mail-in voting.
On Tuesday, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows defended DeJoy, and accused Democrats of launching a political probe.
“Louis DeJoy is an honorable man,” Meadows told reporters. “I’m sure he’ll cooperate completely, and we serve in a great country where you’re innocent until proven guilty.”
DeJoy told friends that Trump’s comments about election mail were “incorrect,” according to a letter to Congress made public on Tuesday.
DeJoy said in a letter that Trump’s “statements regarding the Postal Service and Election Mail were incorrect, and not helpful to the Postal Service.”
Trump has repeatedly said mail-in voting is prone to fraud, contrary to what election experts say.
U.S. Representative Gerald Connolly, a Democrat who oversees a subcommittee that handles postal issues, said on Tuesday that despite DeJoy’s letter he must still turn over documents detailing all communications with the Trump campaign, including texts and emails.
The House Oversight committee is already investigating USPS operational changes, including curbed overtime, and sent DeJoy a subpoena last week seeking related documents. New York state’s attorney general has also separately filed a lawsuit over the issue. (Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru and Doina Chiacu and David Shepardson in Washington; writing by Susan Heavey; Editing by Gerry Doyle, Steve Orlofsky and Jonathan Oatis)
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