Trump illegally appointed Mick Mulvaney as acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Now Mulvaney is instructing officials to ignore the real acting director.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has been plunged headlong into a legal crisis by Donald Trump’s refusal to follow the law.
On Monday, following the resignation of CFPB Director Richard Cordray, two different people — Mick Mulvaney and Leandra English — showed up at the CFPB office claiming to be the agency’s director, causing chaos. Mulvaney is Trump’s budget director. English is the agency’s deputy director, who was named acting director by Cordray.
And according to Reuters, Mulvaney has now ordered all officials to ignore directives from English:
“Please disregard any instructions you receive from Ms. English in her presumed capacity as Acting Director,” Mulvaney wrote to staff in a memo seen by Reuters . “If you receive additional communications from her today… please inform the General Counsel.”
The Dodd-Frank Act clearly states that if the director of the CFPB resigns, the deputy director assumes the role of director until a permanent replacement is confirmed by the Senate.
Trump claims he has authority to overrule this provision and appoint Mulvaney under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act. But this law only applies to agencies that do not explicitly have their own process for filling vacancies, and the CFPB does.
Former Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank, the architect of the agency, has made clear that Trump’s interpretation of the law is wrong and Mulvaney’s nomination is illegal. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who was instrumental in the creation of the agency before she was elected, has also made clear that Trump is violating the explicit process for naming an acting director.
Meanwhile, English has filed a lawsuit to block Mulvaney from assuming control of the agency.
The situation is creating massive chaos at the agency. “I knew on Friday who my boss was,” one CFPB employee told The New York Times. “But thanks to this idiot, I don’t know.” The Times notes that the employee did not specify which idiot.
The CFPB, which is responsible for policing financial institutions, has been despised by the GOP ever since Democrats established it in 2010. Mulvaney has referred to the agency as a “sick, sad joke” and advocates eliminating it.
Trump’s insistence on installing Mulvaney immediately is not only potentially illegal, but also pointless. Senate Republicans will almost certainly rubber-stamp anyone Trump nominates to be permanent director, as they have done for his unqualified judicial nominees and other appointments. Trump could have immediately named a successor and expected the Senate to hold hearings and a vote. Instead, he plowed forward unilaterally and created a legal firestorm.
The pandemonium created by Trump and Mulvaney is yet another unforced mess that degrades the administration’s legitimacy.