The legal battle for control of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau began in earnest Monday morning as Leandra English and Mick Mulvaney – Trump’s OMB director and his pick to lead the CFPD until a new director can be confirmed - have both asserted authority over the agency’s staff, something that is bound to create tremendous confusion until a federal district judge delivers a final ruling.
Mulvaney arrived at the bureau’s Washington headquarters Monday morning carrying bags of donuts from Dunkin Donuts. Meanwhile, English sent an email to CFPB staff where she identified herself as the interim director of the agency, according to Reuters.
An hour later, Mulvaney followed up with an email of his own, instructing staffers to “please disregard” English and inviting them to his office on the fourth floor for coffee and donuts.
Apparently, Mulvaney’s free donuts were a hit with the CFPB staff...
Mulvaney has already held at least one meeting with the agency’s senior staff...
Per anonymous sources cited by Bloomberg, the tide seemed to be turning against English inside the agency as agency division heads alerted staff workers that they should follow the guidance written Nov. 25 by CFPB General Counsel Mary McLeod stating that Mulvaney was acting director.
Still, legal experts claimed that McLeod’s guidance won’t be enough to resolve the dispute – something that will inevitably require a court ruling.
“There is no way for this to get resolved short of court intervention,” said Alan Kaplinsky, a lawyer at Ballard Spahr who has represented big banks in lawsuits against the CFPB. “The CFPB will be paralyzed until we figure out who is in charge."
Of course, Democrats and other law experts disagree. Cordray defended his decision to name English by citing a Dodd-Frank Act provision that puts a deputy director in charge when the director is absent.
“Trump’s attempt to install Mulvaney as interim successor is null and void,” Laurence Tribe, a law professor at Harvard University who did a stint at the Justice Department during the Obama administration, said on Twitter. “This has the makings of a constitutional crisis."
To be sure, there’s one way Trump could settle the issue once and for all: Swiftly appoint a permanent director. Republican Senator John Thune said Sunday that Republicans in the senate would process such an appointment “as quickly as possible."
Meanwhile, Reuters reported that English is set to meet with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren to discuss Trump’s pick to lead the agency.
Whatever Warren's next course of action might be, there’s one thing she can’t change: Mulvaney is already effectively running the agency. And it would take a court ruling to change that.