U.S. Postal Service delivers red ink for 12th year as letter mail drops

The U.S. Postal Service on Wednesday reported a financial loss for the 12th straight year, citing declines in mail volume and the costs of its pension and health care obligations, as the agency braces for an upcoming report ordered by President Donald Trump to address its “unsustainable financial path.”

Postal officials said they expected next year’s finances to be helped by a strong holiday season of package deliveries and a just-approved increase to the price of its first-class stamp, from 50 cents to 55 cents. It takes effect in January.

But they pleaded anew for help from Congress to relieve the Postal Service of onerous health and pension prepayments and for help from regulators to grant the agency more flexibility to increase prices so it can return to profitability.

“Absent legislative and regulatory change, we cannot generate enough revenue or cut enough costs to pay off our bills,” said Postmaster General and CEO Megan J. Brennan. “The flawed business model imposed by law continues to be the root cause of our financial instability.”

The Postal Service reported a loss of $3.9 billion for the budget year that ended Sept. 30, compared with a $2.7 billion loss the year before.

A nearly 7 percent increase in package delivery was unable to offset drop-offs in letter mail, which makes up more than 70 percent of total revenue. First-class mail volume fell by roughly 2.1 billion pieces, or 3.6 percent, as people in the digital age rely more on email for online bill payments.

Revenue was $70.7 billion, compared with $69.6 billion last year, but there were higher transportation and labor costs from delivering more packages.

Trump in recent months has asserted without evidence that the Postal Service is “losing a fortune” and reporting annual losses because it is not charging higher shipping rates for online retailers such as Amazon, whose founder, Jeff Bezos, owns The Washington Post. In April, Trump issued an executive order demanding a review of the Postal Service’s finances. That report, led by the Treasury Department and originally due in August, was expected to be released in the coming weeks.

Trump has often labeled the Post “fake news” after the newspaper reported unfavorable developments during his campaign and presidency and highlighted the Bezos connection by calling it the “Amazon Washington Post.” On Sunday, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the expected next chairman of the House intelligence committee, told Axios that Democrats will seek to investigate whether Trump sought to punish Bezos by pressuring the Postal Service to raise Amazon’s rates.

Package delivery has been a bright spot for the service, although its growth is slowing, and regulators have found its contract with Amazon to be profitable.

The Postal Service, an independent agency, is trying to stay financially afloat as it seeks to invest billions in new delivery trucks to get packages more nimbly to American homes.

Regulators this week approved the Postal Service’s request to increase the price of its first-class stamp by 5 cents. The 10 percent increase to the cost of mailing a 1-ounce letter is the biggest since 1991. The price of each additional ounce will drop from 21 cents to 15 cents. The rate increase takes effect on Jan. 27.

To become financially stable, the Postal Service has been urging Congress to provide it relief from the mandate to prefund retiree health benefits. Legislation in 2006 required the Postal Service to fund 75 years’ worth of retiree health benefits, something that neither the government nor private companies are required to do. It is also seeking flexibility from regulators to increase stamp rates above the rate of inflation.

To avert bankruptcy, the post office has defaulted on the multibillion-dollar health prepayments each year since 2012.

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Judge hands CNN a victory in its bid to restore Jim Acosta’s White House press pass

Miriam Adelson, a doctor, philanthropist and humanitarian who also happens to be a GOP megadonor, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Nov. 16.

November 16 at 4:37 PM

A federal judge on Friday ruled in favor of CNN and reporter Jim Acosta in a dispute with President Trump, ordering the White House to temporarily restore the press credentials that the administration had taken away from Acosta last week.

In a victory for the cable network and for press access generally, U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly granted CNN’s motion for a temporary restraining order that will prevent the administration from keeping Acosta off the White House grounds.

The White House revoked the reporter’s press pass last week after a heated exchange between him and Trump and a brief altercation with a press aide at a news conference. Acosta, CNN’s chief White House correspondent, is the first reporter with a “hard pass” granting White House access to be banned.

CNN sued Trump and other White House officials Tuesday over the revocation. Kelly’s ruling was the result of the first legal skirmish in that lawsuit. It has the immediate effect of sending Acosta back to the White House, pending further arguments and a possible trial. The litigation is in its early stages, and a trial could be months away.

Hours after the judge’s decision, Acosta resumed his post at the White House.

Kelly, whom Trump appointed to the federal bench last year, handed down his ruling two days after the network and government lawyers argued over whether the president had the power to revoke a reporter’s access.


President Trump and CNN’s Jim Acosta square off at a Nov. 7 news conference. (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

In explaining his decision, Kelly said he agreed with the government’s argument that there was no First Amendment right to come onto the White House grounds. But, he said, once the White House opened up the grounds to reporters, the First Amendment applied.

Kellly’s ruling, however, primarily emphasized evidence indicating that the White House’s decision to boot Acosta had violated the Fifth Amendment, which guarantees due process in government actions. He said the White House’s decision-making was “so shrouded in mystery that the government could not tell me . . . who made the decision.” The White House’s later written arguments for banning Acosta were belated and were not sufficient to satisfy due process, Kelly said.

“We are gratified with this result and we look forward to a full resolution in the coming days,” CNN said in a statement. “Our sincere thanks to all who have supported not just CNN, but a free, strong and independent American press.”

Acosta added: “I just want to thank all my colleagues in the press who supported me this week. I want to thank the judge [for this ruling]. And let’s go back to work.”

In comments made in the Oval Office afterward, Trump said the White House would write rules to satisfy the court’s due-process concerns. He also suggested his administration would keep up the legal fight with CNN. “We will end up back in court, and we will win,” he said.

‘Let’s go back to work’: Acosta’s White House press pass restored
A judge ruled on Nov. 16 in favor of CNN reporter Jim Acosta in a dispute with the Trump administration. (Reuters)

“We want total freedom of the press,” Trump said. “. . . But you have to act with respect when you’re at the White House, and when I see the way some of my people get treated at news conferences, it’s terrible. So we’re setting up a certain standard, which is what the court is requesting.”

He added, “We always have the option of leaving, . . . and the other media and press in the room won’t be happy.”

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement after the ruling that “the court made clear that there is no absolute First Amendment right to access the White House,” although the judge actually said reporters have such rights once admitted.

Sanders announced Acosta’s “indefinite” suspension last week after the confrontation at the news conference. Trump and Sanders have had several run-ins with Acosta, stretching back to before Trump became president.

Acosta watched Friday’s proceedings from the courtroom in Washington, joined by a team of attorneys who included Theodore B. Olson, a former solicitor general in George W. Bush’s administration, and Theodore Boutrous, a star litigator and media-law specialist.

CNN had argued that the ban on Acosta violated his First Amendment rights because it amounted to “viewpoint discrimination” — that is, the president was punishing the reporter for statements and coverage he did not like. The network has also said the action violated Acosta’s Fifth Amendment rights because his exclusion followed no written guidelines or rules and had no appeal or review procedures.

CNN had requested “emergency” relief from the judge, arguing that Acosta’s rights were being violated with each passing hour.

Until the White House’s action last week, no reporter credentialed to cover the president had ever had a press pass revoked.

A government attorney, James Burnham, argued in a hearing before Kelly on Wednesday that the president was within his rights to ban any reporter from the White House at any time, just as he excludes reporters from interviews in the Oval Office. He said Acosta could report on the president “just as effectively” by watching the president on TV or by calling people within the White House. Burnham also said CNN would not be injured by Acosta’s exclusion, since CNN has dozens of other journalists credentialed for the White House.

Burnham said Trump’s rationale for Acosta’s ban was his “rudeness” at last week’s news conference, in effect arguing that Acosta’s conduct, not his right to free speech, was the relevant issue.

The assertions drew a rebuttal from Boutrous, CNN’s attorney, who described the ban on the reporter as arbitrary, capricious and unprecedented. He said that White House reporters need access to the premises to meet with officials and to report on un­televised “gaggles,” impromptu discussions with press aides and other officials, and that banning reporters from the grounds harms their ability to do their jobs.

Media organizations have been alarmed by the White House’s treatment of Acosta, saying that revoking his “hard pass” to enter the White House is a threat to other journalists who might be similarly banned. Trump has suggested other reporters could face a similar fate if they displease him in some unspecified way. Thirteen news organizations, including The Washington Post and Fox News, jointly filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting CNN’s position.

The White House Correspondents’ Association, which represents journalists in their negotiations over access to the president, filed a brief Thursday that urged the court “to roundly reject the president’s dangerous legal position.” It disputed the government’s claim that the president has “absolute, unbridled discretion to decide who can report from inside the White House.”

During the presidential campaign in 2015 and 2016, Trump banned more than a dozen news organizations from his rallies and public events, including The Post. He said he would not do something similar as president. Last week, he went back on that statement.

Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign has used the CNN lawsuit to drum up contributions, portraying the suit as evidence of “liberal bias” — an assertion Boutrous brought up Wednesday in asserting that Trump had political reasons for banning Acosta.

“CNN is SUING President Trump, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a Secret Service agent, and other White House officials,” the fundraising email says. “ . . . All because they REVOKED Jim Acosta’s press badge after his continuous grandstanding and inappropriate refusal to yield to other reporters.

“President Trump will NOT put up with the media’s liberal bias and utter disrespect for this Administration and the hardworking Americans who stand with us.”

 

 

 

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‘There could be others’: Trump poised to ban more journalists from the White House

Eddie Scarry
3 days ago
President Trump said that more journalists could be barred from the White House following the decision to rescind the credentials of CNN reporter Jim Acosta.

Speaking to reporters on the South Lawn of the White House before leaving for Europe, Trump said that “this is a very sacred place to be” and that journalists did not have a guaranteed right to work there. “You’ve got to treat the White House and the office of the presidency with respect,” he said.

Trump singled out April Ryan of American Urban Radio Networks, saying that “she’s very nasty and she shouldn’t be.” He has often clashed with Ryan, a persistent Trump critic who last year became a CNN contributor, and was irked this week when she tried shouting out questions to him at his free-wheeling Wednesday press conference.

“Talk about somebody who’s a loser,” Trump said outside the White House on Friday. “She doesn’t know what the hell she’s doing.”

Ryan responded on CNN afterward, calling Trump’s comments about her “terrible.”

Ryan was unsuccessful in getting in a question at the conference Wednesday, which came one day after the midterm elections. Trump did not call on Ryan but she tried shouting out anyway and Trump told her she was being rude.

The press conference saw multiple clashes between Trump and reporters, Acosta in particular.

Ryan has been critical of the Trump administration and its staff, once suggesting that White House press secretary Sarah Sanders had threatened her and also that Trump harbors racist sentiments.

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