Why Trump's Pick To Lead The Consumer Protection Bureau Might Be Straight-Up Illegal

by Chris Tognotti
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On Friday, President Donald Trump made headlines by selecting a new acting director to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the federal government agency devoted to protecting average Americans from abuses and exploitation by financial services industries. But the person he chose, and how he went about it, have stoked outcry from Democrats in Congress ― Trump picked Mick Mulvaney as acting CFPB director, someone with a record of opposition to the very agency he'd be leading.

Make no mistake, putting Mulvaney in charge of the CFPB is extremely controversial. Currently the chief of the Trump administration's Office of Budget Management, Mulvaney is by no means a supporter of the bureau ― as HuffPost noted, he referred to the agency as a "joke" back in 2014.

But more to the point, some Democratic leaders are arguing that Trump's effort to install Mulvaney as acting director is illegal, and a usurping of how the transfer of power is meant to occur. That's clearly the position of Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren, who first came up with the idea of the CFPB as a private citizen back in 2007. She tweeted on Saturday that while Trump has the authority to select a new CFPB chief, he does not have the authority to block the current deputy director, Leandra English, from assuming the acting director role until then.

This controversy is all happening because the previous CFPB director, Richard Cordray, resigned the post this month. His final day in the office came on Friday, having served nearly five years leading the agency since former president Barack Obama appointed him in 2012. Cordray is reportedly exploring a run for the Ohio governorship in 2018, vying to replace outgoing Republican governor John Kasich, who is term-limited after eight years in office.

Warren's response to this situation, as explicitly stated on Twitter, is that the courts should decide whether Trump has the authority to put Mulvaney in the acting director's job. Bustle has reached out to the CFPB for comment.

It's not surprising that Warren is animated about this. In addition to being one of the strongest and most visible currently Democratic senators, consumer protection from abuse or exploitation by financial services industries has been one of her signature issues for years. After first conceiving and proposing the agency's creation ten years ago, she was viewed as Obama's likely pick to lead the agency.

This drew staunch opposition from Republicans, however, who were none too keen on Warren ― then a Harvard Law School professor ― getting to lead the agency she helped create. It's likely that the Democrats are fine with how things turned out, however, as Warren defeated former Massachusetts Republican senator Scott Brown in 2012, and has become a very prominent voice in the party.

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In short, as it stands now, there are two people assigned to the same position, and it's entirely unclear what's going to happen to determine who gets to stay on. As The Hill quoted on Saturday, the National Consumer Law Center's associate director, Lauren Saunders, blasted Trump's attempted appointment of Mulvaney.

In an attempt to install a wrecking ball at the helm of the consumer watchdog, President Trump has ignored the law that dictates that the consumer bureau’s deputy director takes over until Congress can confirm a new director.

It remains to be seen whether Mulvaney or English will be left in charge of acting duties at the CFPB until a permanent replacement is named, and whether this move will be the subject of a court challenge. The CFPB is a relatively young agency, having been launched back in 2011 following the passage of the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill.