Obama, in a podcast with David Plouffe, his former campaign manager, took on the Trump administration in direct terms, including calling out Vice President Mike Pence by name.
“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. “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.'”
Obama is referring to ongoing negotiations between Democrats and Republicans on the latest coronavirus stimulus bill. Democrats are packing a proposal by the postal service’s Board of Governors that calls for $25 billion in funding for the beleaguered federal entity.
“They want three and a half billion dollars for something that’ll turn out to be fraudulent, that’s election money basically. They want three and a half billion dollars for the mail-in votes. Universal mail-in ballots. They want $25 billion, billion, for the Post Office. Now they need that money in order to make the Post Office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots,” Trump said, repeating his false claims that mail-in voting would be “fraudulent.”
“But if they don’t get those two items that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting because they’re not equipped to have it,” Trump added.
Obama’s interview with Plouffe was taped Thursday, likely after the President’s Fox Business interview earlier that morning.
Trump, in a briefing later in the day, said he wouldn’t veto a bill with funding for the postal service, but still continued to argue that increased mail-in voting would lead to significant fraud, a claim that is not backed up by evidence.
Trump’s focus on the postal service comes months after he appointed Louis DeJoy, one of his longtime allies and fundraisers, to be postmaster general.
Obama described all of these efforts as the President’s attempts to “starve” the postal service.
“You now have the President throwing in this additional monkey wrench trying to starve the postal service,” Obama said. “My question is what are Republicans doing where you are so scared of people voting that you are now willing to undermine what is part of the basic infrastructure of American life?”
Most notably, however, Obama directly called out Pence — by name — in the interview, and seemingly suggested Harris could be debating someone other than Pence, a possible reference to rumors that Trump could change his vice president if his polls continue to show him trailing Biden.
“She is smart. She is tough,” Obama said. “She is somebody who I think will be able to share the stage with Mike Pence, or whoever else, and dissect some of the terrible decisions that have been made over the last four years that have helped create worse problems than were necessary in the midst of this pandemic.”
CNN’s Ellie Kaufman, Marshall Cohen, Jason Hoffman and Nicky Robertson contributed to this report