In an effort to block President Donald Trump's attempt to place White House budget director Mick Mulvaney at the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)—a move described by one consumer group as "an illegal affront to the American public"—CFPB deputy director Leandra English filed a lawsuit Sunday asserting that she is the "rightful acting director" and accusing the administration of "unlawful" behavior.
"Mulvaney will be as big a gift to Wall Street grifters as Scott Pruitt has been to polluters."
—Teddy Kỳ-Nam Miller, Greenlining Institute
The White House's push to place Mulvaney at the head of the CFPB, an agency created in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, "was not accompanied by any legal reasoning concerning the president's claimed authority to make the appointment," English's lawsuit claims.
On Monday, Mulvaney entered CFPB headquarters in Washington despite English's legal challenge and analysts' insistence that his appointment is illegitimate. Asked by NBC reporter Michelle Dubert if he believes he has authority over the bureau, Mulvaney responded, "Yes, I do."
Beyond charging the Trump administration with overstepping clear legal boundaries, the suit also highlights Mulvaney's complete lack of experience in consumer protection enforcement; his previous characterization of the CFPB as a "sad, sick joke"; and his stated desire to do away with the agency in its entirety.
"I don't like the fact that CFPB exists, I'll be perfectly honest with you," Mulvaney said during a 2015 hearing in the House of Representatives.
In a statement over the weekend, Teddy Kỳ-Nam Miller, economic equity director of the Greenlining Institute, said that the White House's move to elevate Mulvaney to the head the CFPB "continues President Trump's pattern of appointing agency heads whose expressed intent is to destroy the office they lead."
"Mulvaney will be as big a gift to Wall Street grifters as Scott Pruitt has been to polluters," Miller said. "Leandra English is the right person to lead the CFPB. As a dedicated public servant who has spent her career making federal service delivery more efficient and effective, Ms. English has the capacity, experience, and skill set to serve as acting CFPB director until an appropriate nominee is put forward by the White House and the Senate votes to confirm him or her."
The intensifying legal standoff comes just days after CFPB director Richard Cordray announced he would officially resign from his post a week earlier than expected. In a letter following his resignation announcement on Friday, Cordray named English deputy director of the agency—which, under the terms of Dodd-Frank, placed English in line to become acting director.
The Trump administration moved quickly to undercut Cordray's maneuver with one of its own, announcing in a press release that it would name Mulvaney as interim director.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), one of the original architects of the CFPB, wrote on Twitter late Sunday that the White House's efforts amount to an attempt to "override Dodd-Frank" and argued that "Mulvaney should take no action until this dispute is decided in the courts."
— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) November 25, 2017
Other Democratic senators echoed Warren's conclusions, characterizing the Trump administration's actions as a legally unjustifiable attempt to place the interests of Wall Street above those of Americans scammed by predatory institutions.
Turning a consumer watchdog into a lapdog for big WallSt banks is not what American people need or deserve. CFPB must remain a vigilant protector of consumer & economy. https://t.co/tYSnQ1LLdi
— Richard Blumenthal (@SenBlumenthal) November 26, 2017
"Remember, [the CFPB] was the agency that fined Wells Fargo $100 million for defrauding the people who were creating phony accounts," said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) in an interview on Sunday. "It's a watchdog agency. Wall Street hates it like the devil hates holy water."
"Note to POTUS: CFPB is very much alive (remember, they blew whistle on the Wells Fargo scam)," added Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). "That's why so many Wall Street banks want to kill it. Looks like Trump's again on the side of big banks. All that talk about the 'forgotten man' has, well, been forgotten."