Former President Barack Obama accused President Donald Trump of purposely attempting to sabotage the U.S. Postal Service in an effort to alter the results of the 2020 presidential election.
"What we've seen in a way that is unique to modern political history is a president who is explicit in trying to discourage people from voting," Obama said during an appearance on his former campaign adviser David Plouffe's podcast on Friday. "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.'"
He added, "That's sort of unheard of."
The unfounded accusation was immediately amplified by the media, and the conspiracy theory took hold on social media. Even pop music singer Taylor Swift parroted the unsubstantiated allegation.
A photo from Portland of a truck with several USPS mailboxes in the bed went viral last week.
The USPS is literally backing up trucks to mailboxes and taking them away. Here are photos of mailboxes being “deco… https://t.co/d9EbsuFggK— Janet Harris, M.P.Aff. (@Janet Harris, M.P.Aff.) 1597357533.0
Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden embraced the conspiracy theory that mailboxes were being collected in Portland as a form of voter suppression for the election in November.
"They're going around literally with tractor trailers picking up mailboxes," Biden said at a virtual fundraiser. "You oughta go online and check out what they're doing in Oregon. I mean, it's bizarre!"
USPS spokeswoman Kimberly Frum told The Hill that the removal of mailboxes is common.
"Historically, mailboxes have been removed for lack of use and installed in growth areas," Frum said. "Relocating low-use boxes to high traffic areas such as shopping centers, business parks, grocery stores, etc. for increased customer convenience."
"When a collection box consistently receives very small amounts of mail for months on end, it costs the Postal Service money in fuel and work hours for letter carriers to drive to the mailbox and collect the mail," she continued. "Removing the box is simply good business sense in that respect. It is important to note that anyone with a residential or business mailbox can use it as a vehicle to send outgoing mail."
USPS spokesman Steve Doherty told Boston.com that many mailboxes are being repaired or replaced with newer ones. "These trucks are on the street daily," Doherty said. "They're part of our field maintenance fleet."
"This is why you may see one box on a corner that previously may have had two or three side by side," Doherty continued. "With declining letter volumes, we try to keep the system efficient."
"In short – this is all routine maintenance," Doherty concluded. "There's no effort underway to reduce collection boxes."
In fact, between 2011 and 2016, there were roughly 14,000 USPS mailboxes removed, which was during the Obama-Biden administration.
A 2009 Washington Post article stated, "In the past 20 years, 200,000 mailboxes have vanished from city streets, rural routes and suburban neighborhoods – more than the 175,000 that remain."
"The U.S. Postal Service says it removes 'underperforming' mailboxes – those that collect fewer than 25 pieces of mail a day – after a week-long 'density test,'" the report read, echoing what Frum said last week.
Because of the hysteria over the relocated mailboxes, the USPS said they would not remove any boxes until after the election.
"We are not going to be removing any boxes," USPS spokesman Rod Spurgeon told NBC News. "After the election, we're going to take a look at operations and see what we need and don't need."
However, it wasn't only mailboxes that were on the chopping block during the Obama-Biden administration, 3,653 post offices were targeted to be shut down, according to a 2011 Washington Post article. The United States Postal Service ultimately decided against closing the nearly 3,700 post offices, and cut costs by reducing operating hours.
The USPS was looking to cut costs because it was hemorrhaging money, as the mail delivery service has been doing for decades.
The General Accounting Office, a government agency that provides auditing and analysis for Congress, said, "USPS financial viability continues to be high risk because USPS cannot fund its current level of services and financial obligations from its revenues."
Between fiscal years 2007 and 2019, the USPS netted losses of roughly $78 billion, despite receiving approximately $18 billion each year from American taxpayers.
"USPS's overall financial condition is deteriorating and unsustainable," the GAO's 2019 High-Risk update read. "USPS's total unfunded liabilities and debt have grown to double its annual revenue."
Even Obama knew that the United States Postal Service was a money pit.
In 2016, then-President Obama proposed that the USPS slash 12,000 jobs.
In 2009, Obama compared the USPS with private mail carriers, and pointed out that they were thriving while the USPS consistently struggled.
"I mean, if you think about it, UPS and FedEx are doing just fine, right? No, they are," Obama said at a town hall meeting in New Hampshire. "It's the post office that's always having problems."
The National Association of Postal Supervisors President Ted Keating was irked by Obama's USPS insult and fired off a letter to the president.
Keating reportedly said there was "collective disappointment that you chose the Postal Service as a scapegoat and an example of inefficiency."
"Your negative references to the Postal Service without knowledge of the facts was a disservice not only to the members of our organization, but to all postal employees," Keating wrote.
It appears that Obama also tried to kneecap the postal service in some ways.
OBAMA gaffe: 'UPS and FedEx are doing just fine. It's the Post Office having problems"youtu.be