Postal Board Nominees Willing to Challenge Trump in Amazon Feud

(Bloomberg) -- Three of President Donald Trump’s nominees to the U.S. Postal Service’s board of governors say they’re willing to challenge the president in his feud with Amazon.com Inc. over how much it pays to mail packages.

The proposed board members staked out their independence in response to questions from Senator Claire McCaskill, the top Democrat on a Senate panel that held a hearing Wednesday on their nomination to the board that oversees the USPS.

Trump has repeatedly attacked Amazon over its agreements with USPS, including in a barrage of tweets claiming that the online retailer was “costing the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their Delivery Boy” and saying the situation puts “many thousands of retailers out of business.”

USPS has lost more than $65 billion over the past decade as Americans increasingly transmit messages online, according to an April 13 executive order from Trump that established a task force to review the Postal Service’s business practices.

"I wouldn’t necessarily characterize it as confrontation, but I certainly would be willing to challenge the assumptions," said Calvin Tucker, one of the nominees, who is a businessman from Philadelphia and was a Pennsylvania delegate to the 2016 Republican National Convention.

Read more: Trump Orders Post Office Review After Attacks on Amazon

The USPS Board of Governors controls postal expenditures, sets policy and selects the postmaster general. All nine of the seats, which are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate, are currently vacant. The board doesn’t set rates, which is done by a separate agency, the Postal Regulatory Commission. Both bodies play a role in establishing confidential agreements that are negotiated with private companies such as Amazon and United Parcel Service Inc.

Amazon regularly uses the U.S. Postal Service to complete what’s called the “last mile” of delivery, with letter carriers dropping off packages at some 150 million far-flung residences and businesses daily. Since signing a five-year contract in 2013 to deliver packages on Sundays, Amazon and the Postal Service have declared their business relationship a success, although the terms of the contract are confidential.

Sustained Attacks

Trump’s sustained attacks on one of the world’s largest online retailers have hurt Amazon’s stock price and raised questions about government interference in the private sector.

"The facts will lead us toward the truth, and that will be what we advocate for," Robert Duncan, another nominee, who served as chairman of the Republican National Committee from 2007 to 2009, told the panel. The third nominee, David Williams, was inspector general of the postal service for 13 years until 2016.

McCaskill suggested during the hearing that Trump has directed his ire at Amazon because its founder, Jeff Bezos, owns the Washington Post, which has aggressively covered the administration.

"He’s got a thing about the man who owns Amazon," said McCaskill, who is from Missouri.

McCaskill also asked to review confidential agreements the Postal Service has with UPS and FedEx Corp. for last-mile delivery, expressing concern that USPS may not be maximizing its profit with those accords.

A UPS spokeswoman declined to comment on the arrangement, citing confidentiality, but said the company has previously questioned how the postal service accounts for its costs.

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