U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, a Yuma Republican up for re-election this fall, faced several questions from reporters Monday about slowdowns at the U.S. Postal Service but gave few direct answers.
He did say he supports legislation to give billions of dollars more to the struggling USPS.
Gardner was in Aurora to tour medical facilities, after which he met with two local reporters for a series of questions. His remarks came hours after the state’s top Democrats, including the governor and secretary of state, held a press conference about USPS slowdowns and the threat they pose to November’s elections.
Asked if Postmaster General Louis DeJoy — a controversial choice because of his apparent conflicts of interests and lack of USPS experience — is doing a good job, Gardner did not give a direct answer.
“Well, I think we have to understand what the postmaster is trying to do. Is it overtime, is that what he’s trying to do?” Gardner said. “The post office is operating right now at levels that are basically holiday levels because of the crush of e-commerce that they have. So, I think they need to make sure that we don’t have any kind of slowdown around elections or mail. That’s the bottom line.”
When asked if he is worried about USPS’s recent travails, he told a childhood story about riding with his grandfather, a rural postal carrier.
President Donald Trump, whom Gardner has endorsed, claimed Monday on Twitter that elections can be rigged through the corruption of drop boxes. When told of Trump’s remarks, Gardner said he has spoken to the president about mail ballots on several occasions and defended Colorado’s electoral system, which relies in part on a network of hundreds of drop boxes around the state.
Democrats have railed against Trump and DeJoy as Americans struggle to receive medications or pay bills on time, and as state officials worry about the effect on elections nationwide if USPS service remains slow. Trump stated Thursday that he is opposed to increased USPS funding because it will be used, in part, to mail out ballots. Trump also faces re-election Nov. 3.
“For some reason, Donald Trump hates the Postal Service,” said Colorado’s other U.S. senator, Michael Bennet, on KOA Monday. “Now the reason he’s saying he hates it is he thinks mail ballots are going to give Democrats an advantage. That’s A) absurd and B) his argument that mail ballots are corrupted is disproven by Colorado’s example. We have no corruption here though we have mail ballots.”
Gardner was noncommittal Monday about William Perry Pendley, the acting director of the Bureau of Land Management. Pendley was nominated by Trump to be BLM director before his nomination was withdrawn over the weekend, but he will remain as acting director. Democrats opposed him due to his past remarks about the need to sell America’s public lands.
When asked three times whether he supported Pendley’s nomination before it was withdrawn, Gardner never directly answered. Instead, he said Pendley would have faced a lot of tough questions during the Senate confirmation process. Gardner then alleged that Joe Biden and John Hickenlooper, his Democratic opponent, will move BLM’s headquarters out of Grand Junction if they are elected.
“I think it’s devastating to public lands, I think it’s devastating to Colorado, should John Hickenlooper and Joe Biden try to do that,” Gardner told reporters.
Hickenlooper said in a statement that Gardner showed “cowardly silence” Monday by refusing “to speak out against President Trump’s attacks on the USPS.”
“Senator Gardner was elected by vote by mail, and he knows Trump’s lies are dangerous,” Hickenlooper added. “His silence shows a blatant disregard for those who rely on the post office for prescription drugs, to sell their products, or rural Coloradans who can’t always get deliveries from private carriers.”
Gardner was in Aurora on Monday to tour the Marcus Institute for Brain Health and the National Mental Health Innovation Center on the Anschutz Medical Campus. At the latter stop, Gardner heard from researchers about the role technology can play in treating mental illnesses in veterans and other civilians.
“I think we are going to see the biggest mental health crisis in the history of this country” as a result of the pandemic, Matt Vogl, executive director of the innovation center, told Gardner and Sen. Jerry Moran, a Kansas Republican.
Gardner and Moran tested headsets that are used by researchers to study the benefits of virtual reality in treating post-traumatic stress disorder, phobias, anxiety and addiction, among other mental ailments. They praised the center’s research.
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