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Freelance writer Mark Delaney tells me he took this photo Aug. 8 of a postal worker in Portland, Ore., removing mailboxes. Via Twitter

In 24 hours, signs of a pre-election postal slowdown have moved from the shadows to the spotlight, with evidence emerging all over the country that this isn't a just a potential threat, but is happening before our eyes.

Why it matters: If you're the Trump administration, and you're in charge of the federal government, remember that a Pew poll published in April found the Postal Service was viewed favorably by 91% of Americans.

Between the lines: There's pretty high brand equity for the organization that got soldiers' letters back from the front lines, delivered care packages to your summer camp, and shoved your college acceptance through the front door.

What's happening: Louis DeJoy, a top Trump donor, was sworn in as postmaster general in June. Since then:

  • Social media exploded with reports from Oregon, Montana, Manhattan and Pennsylvania that the Postal Service was unbolting and hauling away mailboxes. "Some of the boxes scheduled to be removed from downtown Billings are nearly overflowing daily,” Julie Quilliam, president of the Montana Letter Carriers Association, wrote on Facebook, per AP.
    • The Postal Service backed off Friday, telling NBC News: "We are not going to be removing any boxes ... After the election, we’re going to take a look at operations."
  • The WashPost scooped that the Postal Service sent letters July 29 to 46 states and D.C. "warning that it cannot guarantee all ballots cast by mail for the November election will arrive in time to be counted." The Post said that could mean that even if people "follow all of their state’s election rules, the pace of Postal Service delivery may disqualify their votes."
  • And high-speed sorting machines are being yanked from processing plants.

Of note: Joe Biden is seizing on the postal fiasco, saying on Friday at a virtual fundraiser, per a pool report:

  • "I was joking earlier with a couple on the call. I wonder if you're outside trying to hold down your mailboxes. They’re going around literally with tractor trailers picking up mailboxes. You oughta go online and check out what they're doing in Oregon. I mean, it's bizarre!"
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Go deeper

Trump adviser falsely claims Democrats could "steal" electoral votes

Trump campaign senior adviser Jason Miller falsely claimed on Sunday that Democrats would try to "steal" electoral votes after election night if President Trump appears to be ahead, signaling a coming legal fight over mail-in ballots that are counted after Nov. 3.

Reality check: Electoral College votes are not awarded until December, and no state ever reports its final count on election night — despite Trump's insistence that the election should end on Nov. 3 and that the courts should not allow ballots to be counted in the days following.

Pennsylvania secretary of state: "Elections have never been called on election night"

Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar reminded viewers on NBC's "Meet the Press" that "elections have never been called on election night," because service members overseas have until a week after Election Day to cast ballots in certain states.

The state of play: Boockvar said the state's election results will likely take longer to come in than usual, after anchor Chuck Todd noted that some counties in Pennsylvania will not begin counting mail-in ballots until the Wednesday after Election Day.

DOJ watchdog to probe whether officials sought to alter election results

Former President Donald Trump and former First Lady Melania Trump exit Air Force One in West Palm Beach, Florida, on Jan. 20. Photo: Alex Edelman/AFP via Getty Images

The Justice Department's inspector general will investigate whether any current or former DOJ officials "engaged in an improper attempt to have DOJ seek to alter the outcome" of the 2020 election, the agency announced Monday.

Driving the news: The investigation comes in the wake of a New York Times report that alleged that Jeffrey Clark, the head of DOJ's civil division, had plotted with President Trump to oust acting Attorney General Jeffery Rosen in a scheme to overturn the election results in Georgia.