[Update: 5:00 p.m.]
During a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney announced a 30-day hiring and regulatory freeze at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, amidst legal challenges from CFPB Deputy Director Leandra English. She was appointed as Acting Director of the CFPB by departing Director Richard Cordray, but President Trump then appointed Mulvaney to the role, and the weekend saw the two factions sending out both conflicting emails and, in the case of English, a lawsuit seeking a temporary restraining order against Mulvaney.
In the past, Mulvaney has made no secret about his dislike of the CFPB, calling it a joke "in a sick, sad kind of way” and suggesting that it shouldn’t exist in the first place. However, he told reporters, “Rumors that I’m going to set the place on fire or blow it up or lock the doors are completely false.” He added, “I’m not here to shut the place down, because the law doesn’t allow that.” Instead, he vowed to “get [the bureau] to the point where it can protect people without trampling on capitalism.” He added, “We need to figure out a way to both follow the law and protect citizens, but without choking off access to capital.”
Mulvaney didn’t walk his criticisms of the CFPB back too far, however. “My opinion of the structure of the CFPB has not changed,” said Mulvaney. “It is still an awful example of an agency gone wrong. I’m just learning about the powers I have as acting director. They would probably frighten you.”
Mulvaney denied reports that both he and English had showed up at the CFPB to take on the role of Acting Director Monday morning, insisting English was a no-show. While acknowledging the reports of English’s lawsuit, he said he had not seen a copy of it nor had he been served. He then joked, “Only in Washington D.C. can you get sued for actually showing up for work.”
After the press conference, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), announced plans to hold a rally and protest outside the CFPB headquarters in Washington D.C. tomorrow morning, Tuesday, November 28. She will call for Mulvaney to step aside and let Leandra English assume her duties as Acting Director of the CFPB. According to a press release, Warren and the Progressive Campaign Change Committee (PCCC) “will make the case that the American people need a CFPB director who will uphold the law and protect working families against wrongdoings by Wall Street and giant corporations.”
The rally will begin at 12 p.m. EST on Tuesday, and Warren will deliver a speech at 12:30 p.m.
During his press conference, Mulvaney addressed criticism from Warren and others by saying his tenure as Acting Director of the CFPB will be “as independent from Trump as Cordray was from Obama.”
[Update: 1 p.m.]
When Richard Cordray announced in mid November that he was stepping down as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, there was no question that big changes were in store. But few could have predicted just how complicated things would soon become. When Cordray announced his retirement, he appointed his chief of staff, Leandra English, as Acting Director of the Bureau. That same day, President Trump appointed Republican Congressman Mick Mulvaney as Acting Director of the CFPB. With both Acting Directors asserting their own claim over the position, English over the weekend filed suit, seeking a temporary restraining order. Now the CFPB general counsel has weighed in and said that the law backs the President’s appointment of Mulvaney.
With both potential Acting Directors showing up for work Monday morning and sending official conflicting emails out to CFPB staff, there has been understandable confusion. While the smoke still hasn’t cleared over the situation, POLITICO obtained a memo wherein CFPB General Counsel Mary McLeod backed a Justice Department opinion that was issued over the weekend, throwing more weight behind the legitimacy of Mulvaney’s appointment.
In the Saturday memo to the CFPB leadership team, McLeod said, “...it is my legal opinion that the President possesses the authority to designate an Acting Director for the Bureau.” McLeod advised all CFPB staff “to act consistently with the understanding that Director Mulvaney is the acting director of the CFPB."
With the Trump administration focusing on rolling back or streamlining governmental regulations across the board, the CFPB has been held up as a prime example of overregulation by people such as Mulvaney himself, who called the CFPB “a wonderful example of how a bureaucracy will function if it has no accountability to anybody” in a 2014 interview with the Credit Union Times.
In response to McLeod’s memo, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said:
“Now that the CFPB’s own general counsel—who was hired under Richard Cordray—has notified the bureau’s leadership that she agrees with the Administration’s and DOJ’s reading of the law, there should be no question that Director Mulvaney is the acting director. It is unfortunate that Mr. Cordray decided to put his political ambition above the interests of consumers with this stunt."
However, McLeod’s memo doesn’t mean English’s lawsuit simply goes away. Both President Trump and Mulvaney are named as defendants in the suit, which states, “Ms. English has a clear entitlement to the position of acting director of the CFPB. The president's purported or intended appointment of defendant Mulvaney as acting director of the CFPB is unlawful."