Obama says he worries about Trump's efforts to 'kneecap' Postal Service

Funeral Held For Rep. John Lewis At Atlanta's Ebenezer Baptist Church

DETROIT (Reuters) - Former President Barack Obama said on Friday he worries about protecting the integrity of November's election in view of efforts by President Donald Trump to "kneecap" the U.S. Postal Service to limit Americans voting by mail during the pandemic.

Obama, speaking on a podcast with David Plouffe, who managed his winning 2008 presidential campaign, also played down the seriousness of progressive-moderate divisions in the Democratic Party and said younger voters provided the key to beating Trump.

Trump, who opinion polls show is trailing presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, said on Thursday he was blocking Democrats' effort to include funds for the Postal Service in a new coronavirus relief bill, in a bid to stop universal mail-in voting.

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Trump holds briefing amid shooting drama
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Trump holds briefing amid shooting drama
WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 10: A member of the United States Secret Service asks President Donald J. Trump to follow him as he speaks moment after a shooting outside the White House during a COVID-19 coronavirus briefing in the James S. Brady Briefing Room at the White House at the White House on Monday, Aug 10, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 10: President Donald J. Trump speaks during a COVID-19 coronavirus briefing in the James S. Brady Briefing Room, which was interrupted after the United States Secret Service shot a person at 17th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, at the White House on Monday, Aug 10, 2020 in Washington, DC. President Trump said that the person was taken to the hospital after the shooting, but that he did not know the persons condition. He added that he understands the person was armed. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, D.C., Aug. 10, 2020 -- U.S. Secret Service staff respond to a shooting near the White House in Washington, D.C., the United States, Aug. 10, 2020. U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday afternoon was temporarily escorted by the Secret Service away from an ongoing coronavirus briefing after a shooting was reported outside the White House.(Photo by Liu Jie/Xinhua via Getty) (Xinhua/Liu Jie via Getty Images)
Police activity at the entrance to Pennsylvania Avenue near the White House shortly after Secret Service guards shot a person who was apparently armed, outside the White House on August 10, 2020 while US President Donald Trump was speaking to the press in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC. - Secret Service guards shot a person, who was apparently armed, outside the White House on August 10, 2020. President Donald Trump said just after being briefly evacuated in the middle of a press conference. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
Police activity at the entrance to Pennsylvania Avenue near the White House shortly after Secret Service guards shot a person who was apparently armed, outside the White House on August 10, 2020 while US President Donald Trump was speaking to the press in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC. - Secret Service guards shot a person, who was apparently armed, outside the White House on August 10, 2020. President Donald Trump said just after being briefly evacuated in the middle of a press conference. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
US Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin, Director of the Office of Management and Budget Russell Vought, member of the coronavirus task force Scott Atlas, and US President Donald Trump leave after a briefing at the White House August 10, 2020, in Washington, DC. - Secret Service guards shot a person, who was apparently armed, outside the White House on Monday, President Donald Trump said just after being briefly evacuated in the middle of a press conference. The president was abruptly ushered out of the press event and black-clad secret service agents with automatic rifles rushed across the lawn north of the White House. Minutes later, Trump reappeared at the press conference, where journalists had been locked in, and announced that someone had been shot outside the White House grounds. Trump said he knew nothing about the identity or motives of the person shot, but when asked if the person had been armed, answered: "From what I understand, the answer is yes." (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump listens to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on August 10, 2020. - Secret Service guards shot a person, who was apparently armed, outside the White House on Monday, President Donald Trump said just after being briefly evacuated in the middle of a press conference. The president was abruptly ushered out of the press event and black-clad secret service agents with automatic rifles rushed across the lawn north of the White House. Minutes later, Trump reappeared at the press conference, where journalists had been locked in, and announced that someone had been shot outside the White House grounds. Trump said he knew nothing about the identity or motives of the person shot, but when asked if the person had been armed, answered: "From what I understand, the answer is yes." (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 10: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference at the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House August 10, 2020 in Washington, DC. Trump tweeted earlier today that he will accept the Republican presidential nomination on August 27 either at the Civil War battlefield in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, or at the White House. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Police cars block the entrance to Pennsylvania Avenue near the White House shortly after Secret Service guards shot a person who was apparently armed, outside the White House on August 10, 2020 while US President Donald Trump was speaking to the press in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC. - The president was abruptly ushered out of the press event and black-clad secret service agents with automatic rifles rushed across the lawn north of the White House. Minutes later, Trump reappeared at the press conference, where journalists had been locked in. Trump said he knew nothing about the identity or motives of the person shot, but when asked if the person had been armed, answered: "From what I understand, the answer is yes." (Photo by Eric BARADAT / AFP) (Photo by ERIC BARADAT/AFP via Getty Images)
A member of the US Secret Service takes up position on the roof as the White House is locked down in Washington, DC, on August 10, 2020. - Secret Service guards shot a person, who was apparently armed, outside the White House on August 10, 2020. President Donald Trump said just after being briefly evacuated in the middle of a press conference. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump speaks to the press in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on August 10, 2020. - Secret Service guards shot a person, who was apparently armed, outside the White House on Monday, President Donald Trump said just after being briefly evacuated in the middle of a press conference. The president was abruptly ushered out of the press event and black-clad secret service agents with automatic rifles rushed across the lawn north of the White House. Minutes later, Trump reappeared at the press conference, where journalists had been locked in, and announced that someone had been shot outside the White House grounds. Trump said he knew nothing about the identity or motives of the person shot, but when asked if the person had been armed, answered: "From what I understand, the answer is yes." (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Members of the US Secret Service stand outside the Brady Briefing Room as the White House is locked down in Washington, DC, on August 10, 2020. - Secret Service guards shot a person, who was apparently armed, outside the White House on August 10, 2020. President Donald Trump said just after being briefly evacuated in the middle of a press conference. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 10: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference at the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House August 10, 2020 in Washington, DC. U.S. President Donald Trump briefly stopped his news conference after a Secret Service agent told him to leave the room and returned after an all clear was issued. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
A member of the US Secret Service takes up position outside the Brady Briefing Room as the White House is locked down in Washington, DC, on August 10, 2020. - Secret Service guards shot a person, who was apparently armed, outside the White House on August 10, 2020. President Donald Trump said just after being briefly evacuated in the middle of a press conference. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump speaks to the press in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on August 10, 2020. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump is being removed by a member of the secret service from the Brady Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on August 10, 2020. - Secret Service guards shot a person, who was apparently armed, outside the White House on August 10, 2020. President Donald Trump said just after being briefly evacuated in the middle of a press conference. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 10: U.S. President Donald Trump walks up to speak during a news conference at the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House August 10, 2020 in Washington, DC. President Trump tweeted earlier today that he will accept the Republican presidential nomination on August 27 either at the Civil War battlefield in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, or at the White House. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
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Trump has railed for months against mail-in ballots as a possible source of fraud, although millions of Americans have cast absentee ballots by mail for years without such problems.

"The thing I'm most worried about is A) how do we protect the integrity of the election process? How do we make sure that people's votes are counted?" Obama said.

He said Republicans have actively discouraged voter turnout before but that Trump's efforts to "actively kneecap the Postal Service" were unprecedented.

"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, right?" he said.

The Postal Service has told at least four states — Michigan, Pennsylvania, California and Washington — there is "significant risk" voters will not have enough time to complete their ballots and return them on time under current state laws, according to correspondence seen by Reuters.

"When we have voted in large numbers, particularly young people, we make progress. And when we don't, that vacuum is filled by people who are only interested in protecting their own power," Obama said.

Democrats have been trying to get younger, more progressive people, who usually vote in lower numbers, to take part in the election on Nov. 3. They worry that disagreements between moderate Democrats, such as Biden, and the more left-leaning wing of the party could hurt turnout.

Obama said Democrats were "unified" around the idea that everyone should have healthcare.

"So the good news is that a lot of the so-called divisions within the Democratic Party, I think are not going to be a major factor in the election," he said.

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