CNN  — 

President Donald Trump said Thursday that he opposes much-needed funding for the United States Postal Service because he doesn’t want to see it used for mail-in voting this November.

By directly linking USPS funding to mail-in voting, Trump is fueling allegations that he is trying to manipulate the postal system for political gain. The pandemic has led to record-shattering levels of voting-by-mail, but Trump has tried to restrict the voting method because he says it will hurt his re-election and Republicans across the board.

During an interview on Fox News, Trump said that if USPS does not receive the additional $25 billion funding request that Democrats included in the ongoing stimulus negotiations, then he believes the Post Office won’t be able to handle the influx of mail-in ballots in the upcoming election.

“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 you they’re not equipped to have it,” Trump added.

Trump has criticized mail-in voting for months, baselessly asserting that it will lead to voter fraud.

There is not widespread voter fraud in US elections, and nonpartisan experts say neither party automatically benefits when states expand access to mail-in voting.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi responded to Trump’s claims during an interview on MSNBC, saying the $25 billion for USPS was proposed by the agency’s Board of Governors, not Democrats.

“In the legislation we have $25 billion, that is the number that is recommended by the Board of Governors of the US postal service,” Pelosi said in the interview, also noting that “a bipartisan Board of Governors, 100% appointed by Donald Trump, they recommended $25 billion dollars.”

Pelosi added that in previous congressional bills on the coronavirus, “the President has stood in the way of any money for the postal service.”

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s campaign called Trump’s comments an “assault on our democracy,” in a statement.

“The President of the United States is sabotaging a basic service that hundreds of millions of people rely upon, cutting a critical lifeline for rural economies and for delivery of medicines, because he wants to deprive Americans of their fundamental right to vote safely during the most catastrophic public health crisis in over 100 years,” Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates said in a statement.

Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, a Democrat, said in a tweet that Trump’s comments are “voter suppression, plain and simple.”

The President had previously stated that USPS would not have the ability to handle the increase in mail-in votes that will be sent in this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, a claim the Postal Service has rebuffed.

“The Postal Service has ample capacity to adjust our nationwide processing and delivery network to meet projected Election and Political Mail volume, including any additional volume that may result as a response to the Covid-19 pandemic,” the agency said in a statement.

David Becker, executive director of the nonpartisan Center for Election Innovation and Research, said Trump’s attacks on USPS hurt voters, including many of his own supporters who vote-by-mail.

“He’s openly encouraging his voters to use that, but he’s hurting those same voters by opposing bipartisan efforts to provide enough funding to ensure all voters in those states, including his own, can vote by mail without problems,” Becker said.