As Postmaster General Louis DeJoy prepares to testify before Congress on Friday and Monday, the former vice chairman of the U.S. Postal Service’s Board of Governors and inspector general, David C. Williams, testified before the Congressional Progressive Caucus on Thursday afternoon at an ad hoc hearing. Williams, a Democrat, resigned from the USPS in April, shortly before DeJoy accepted President Trump’s nomination. CBS news campaign reporter Cara Korte says Williams’ testimony plainly stated that the Trump administration and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin were clearly interested in slowing down the Postal Service and making mail more expensive for Americans to use.

Williams, who worked as USPS IG from 2003-2016, said he had “never seen” anything like Mnuchin’s interest in the USPS. Williams also said Postmaster General DeJoy was guided through his interview process by fellow Board Governor John M. Barger. At the time, Williams said, he did not think DeJoy was a serious candidate given how uninformed he appeared. In his opening statement, Williams said, “I resigned from the Board of Governors, because I was convinced that its independent role had been marginalized and that representations regarding an independent postal service for the nation were no longer truthful. I felt that the public was owed the truth in this matter.”

The USPS and DeJoy, a Republican donor, have recently come under fire for operational changes that led to delayed mail delivery – even though they announced they would be holding off on the modifications until after the election – which raised concerns about ballots being mailed in time to voters.

The latest CBS News Battleground Tracker poll shows that most Americans say that the USPS should be getting more funding to handle mail-in voting this year. And amidst reports of recent slow-downs in service due to the measures, nearly half of Americans say they rely a lot on mail and deliveries from the U.S. Postal Service in their daily lives. Majorities across demographic groups feel this way, though there are partisan differences. Nearly all Democrats and most independents think more funding should be allocated, but few Republicans agree. Most Republicans think the U.S. Postal Service should get the same amount of funding it has always gotten. Given past voting history, this partisan split may not be surprising. Our most recent poll shows that 26% of Democratic registered voters say have usually voted by mail in the past, compared to 15% of Republican voters. Looking ahead to his year, 37% of registered voters say they would prefer to vote by mail for the presidential election. Of those who would prefer to vote this way, 78% plan on voting for Joe Biden. Read more on this from the CBS News Election & Survey Unit here.

FROM THE CANDIDATES

JOE BIDEN

NBA player Steph Curry and his family are set to endorse Joe Biden Thursday evening at the Democratic National Convention, CBS News has learned. Biden has been rehearsing his acceptance speech throughout the week and was still “reviewing” the address on Thursday, CBS News campaign reporter Bo Erickson reports from sources within the campaign. His family will introduce him, led by his children Hunter and Ashley Biden. The former VP’s campaign advisers say the candidate will deliver a speech framed around his day one campaign message of the “battle for the soul of America.” The speech’s main focus will not solely be on refuting President Trump, but Biden is expected to speak to what he sees as faults in Mr. Trump’s leadership, similar to what he has said throughout his 483-day campaign. Biden will also call upon more specifics of his “Build Back Better” plans to boost American manufacturing, spark a “green energy” economy and kick start his “21st century caregiving” agenda if he wins in order to combat the ongoing economic crisis. Biden will also speak to the racial justice crisis as he sees this moment as evidence for the fight for the country’s soul. Thursday’s speech will be at least the seventh address Biden has given to a Democratic convention since he began attending 48 years ago in 1972.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP

As Biden prepares to formally accept the nomination of his party on Thursday, Mr. Trump took his multi-state bid to upstage the Democratic National Convention to Biden’s Pennsylvania hometown, reports CBS News campaign reporter Alex Tin. “Joe Biden is no friend of Pennsylvania,” the president declared Thursday afternoon at a rally near the former vice president’s birthplace in Scranton. “He’s actually, for the reasons we just said, he’s your worst nightmare. Biden supported every single globalist attack on Pennsylvania workers.” CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga says the president criticized President Obama at length following his Democratic address. “I watched President Obama last night, and I watched him talking about everything and I had to put it out. I said, ‘yeah but he spied on our campaign and he got caught.'” The president added, “if that happened to another campaign on the other side, they would have had 25 people in jail for many years already.” Mr. Trump has repeatedly claimed over the years, without evidence, that his predecessor “spied” on his campaign, a false allegation that the Obama White House tapped his Trump Tower phone lines prior to the 2016 general election. The president also mentioned his 2016 Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. “You look at Hillary, she was a lot smarter than Joe. But I’ll tell you there was a certain sense of sanity four years ago,” Mr. Trump said. Mr. Trump added that he watched “another beauty,” Kamala Harris last night – mispronouncing her name three times. “I’ll take Mike,” the president grinned. As in other battleground states across the country, the president for months has at best virtually tied Biden in a state he won in 2016. But Mr. Trump insisted he remained hopeful of his chances in Pennsylvania, even as he again raised the specter of a “rigged” election, predicting “based on the crowd outside, it looks to me like we’re going to win this thing. I think, by the way, by a lot.”

ISSUES THAT MATTER

UNEMPLOYMENT

The number of Americans applying for jobless benefits increased last week, raising some concerns about the economic recovery five months into the coronavirus pandemic, according to CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster.About 1.1 million Americans filed for traditional benefits last week, an increase of 135,000 from the previous week, bringing the total back above 1 million. More than 540,000 workers filed for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a program for self-employed and gig workers. This marked the 22nd straight week where more people filed for unemployment benefits than the highest number of any week during the Great Recession. As of the week ending August 1, 28 million Americans were claiming some form of unemployment benefits. That was when the extra $600 in federal unemployment assistance expired. The Trump administration is offering an extra $300 in federal jobless benefits that states need to apply for.

VOTING RIGHTS

The NAACP is taking the U.S. Postal Service to court. The civil rights organization on Thursday filed a federal lawsuit against Postmaster General Louis DeJoy. The lawsuit seeks to suspend new restrictions on mail carrier routes and other changes recently implemented by DeJoy. The group says the “operational pivot” has led to mail delays in some communities and accuses DeJoy of “weaponizing” the Postal Service to disenfranchise voters of color, reports CBS News correspondent Nikole Killion. “This willful and blatant attempt to obstruct the mail system amid a pandemic and on the precipice a pivotal election is a threat to the people of this nation to exercise their right to a fair and free election,” said Derrick Johnson, NAACP president and CEO. The U.S. Postal Service did not comment on the lawsuit but pointed to an earlier statement from DeJoy. He said the agency is ready to handle “whatever volume of election mail” it receives this fall and will put off certain reforms until after the election.

STATE-BY-STATE

ARIZONA

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich on Wednesday rejected a public plea from his state’s top elections official to investigate service changes at the USPS, accusing state Secretary of State Katie Hobbs of undermining “public confidence in Arizona’s election process.” Hobbs, a Democrat, expressed disappointment online over the response from Brnovich, a Republican, pointing to recent legal action filed by nearly two dozen Democratic attorneys general over the postal service controversy, reports CBS News campaign reporter Alex Tin. In her letter, the secretary had warned of “a larger, coordinated scheme” by the Trump administration to “interfere” with mail voting. The two officials are at odds over several other issues in the predominantly vote-by-mail state. A federal court is expected to issue a decision soon over one such dispute: a court challenge over Arizona’s deadline for resolving unsigned mail ballots.

Also in Arizona, some conservative activists tell Tin they are outraged over receiving GOP mailers bearing a photo of Mr. Trump and urging recipients to apply for mail ballots, despite the president’s public skepticism of the process. They are urging fellow Republicans in group messages, on social media and in web posts to voice their frustration to a state party they fear is “helping the Democrats win.” The party-funded advertisements have also blanketed potential battleground states from from New Mexico to Florida. “Like the president wisely stated, mandating mass universal mail-in voting in states that are unprepared and ill-equipped to manage the process is a terrible idea and opens up the possibility of flaws and fraud in our elections, Thankfully, Arizona has been conducting mail-in voting for more than two decades,” said Greg Safsten, executive director of the Arizona Republican Party, in a statement. Safsten also praised Arizona’s mail voting system as “safe and secure.” A state party spokesperson said they had received only a handful of inquiries in response to their mailer.

NEVADA

An aide to Nevada’s attorney general is rebuking former state Secretary of State Dean Heller’s accusation Wednesday on a Trump campaign press call that “duplicate voting” had gone unprosecuted in the state. Heller, a Republican who also previously served a term in the U.S. Senate for Nevada, falsely claimed that “in all cases” the state had refused to prosecute such crimes, reports CBS News campaign reporter Alex Tin. “While our office cannot discuss the prosecutorial decisions of former attorneys general, under Attorney General Ford’s administration, our office takes allegations of voter fraud extremely seriously,” Monica Moazez, communications director for the state’s current attorney general, said in an email. Though acknowledging that voter fraud was rare, Moazez said the office had prosecuted one such case: a southern Nevada man charged last year with voting twice in the 2016 election.

OHIO

Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio and local leaders held a press conference at the local United Steelworkers in Akron, Ohio, following Mr. Trump’s call to boycott Goodyear tires. Goodyear is headquartered in Akron. “[Trump] has not been here for working-class people or working-class communities like Akron,” Ryan said. CBS News campaign reporter Jack Turman says Trump called for a boycott after CBS Topeka, Kansas, affiliate WIBW-TV reported that some Goodyear employees at a local plant were told that there was a “zero tolerance” policy for wearing clothing with political messages. USW International President Tom Conway said in a statement that the president and his staff neglected to help Goodyear as it was closing a tire plant in Alabama. “It would have been nice if the president would have paid as much attention to that loss of American jobs as he does to his MAGA hats. Maybe a tweet or two back then would have been helpful,” Conway added.

NEWSMAKERS

KANYE WEST

The Wisconsin Elections Commission voted 5-1 Thursday to sustain a challenge to the timing of Kanye West’s filing in the state, thereby kicking him off the ballot in the swing state. The WEC just made the decision during a Zoom meeting on Thursday, reports CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro. Michael Curran, an attorney representing West’s campaign, argued the papers were turned in seconds before 5:01 p.m., thereby satisfying the 5:00 p.m. deadline to file. However Attorney Jeffrey Mandel, representing the challengers, disagreed with the notion of one-minute grace period between 5:00:00 and 5:00:59, and argued the papers were in the physical possession of election officials after 5:01 pm. After bringing on two election officials directly involved, they testified the representatives for West’s campaign spent some time putting page numbers on the filings once in the office, and that the papers were in actual possession of election officials several minutes after 5 p.m. West’s camp has not identified yet whether they would appeal the decision.

Republican Bob Spindell was the only member to vote against the motion, saying that the timeline was pretty close, and that as soon as a representative from West’s campaign walked into the building, it should have mean that their papers were on time. “Mr. West is an African American candidate, and I think we should do all we can, after the terrible treatment that the black population in Milwaukee received during the April election, that we give them a choice,” Spindell said. West was kicked off the ballot in Montana on Thursday as well, after a review found he had an insufficient amount of valid signatures. West has now been kicked off/withdrawn in three states: New Jersey, Montana and Wisconsin. Illinois has a hearing on his filing Friday.

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