Mick Mulvaney holds defiant press conference amid major battle for control of consumer watchdog group

  • There has been some dispute over who is really leading the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
  • Mick Mulvaney, whom President Donald Trump appointed as interim director, held a defiant press conference to insist he’s really in charge.
  • Mulvaney blasted the agency as an “awful example of bureaucracy.”

Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney – tapped by President Donald Trump to run the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in the interim on Friday – held a defiant press conference in the midst of an ongoing battle over who is actually leading the agency.

Recapping his first day at the helm, he told reporters he would institute a 30-day hiring freeze, as well as a freeze on new rules for the same time frame. Though he said he wouldn’t “blow it up,” Mulvaney, who once said the agency was a “sick, sad joke,” had little good to say about the current state of the CFPB, the brain-child of Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

Mulvaney blasted both the agency, which he called “flawed,” “completely unaccountable,” and an “awful example of bureaucracy,” and more subtly, Leandra English, the CFPB deputy that recently departed director Richard Cordray tapped to lead the bureau as his interim successor.

“Only in Washington could you get sued for actually showing up for work,” he said of the lawsuit English filed in federal court seeking to prevent him from leading the agency. He also chastised her for not showing up to the CFPB office on Monday. English met with Warren and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Capitol Hill on Monday afternoon.

“I don’t know if a no-call, no-show for one day justifies termination,” he said. “We’ll have to find out. Look, we expect people to work.”

“Maybe she took a vacation day for the long Thanksgiving weekend,” he added.

Mulvaney said Trump wants him to make sure the agency “protects people without trampling on capitalism.”

“The place is a wonderful example of how a bureaucracy will function if it has no accountability to anybody,” he said.

Mulvaney’s presser was the latest salvo in the ongoing brouhaha over who is the rightful interim leader of the agency, after both he and English sent dueling emails asserting their authority.

In the first email to staffers on Monday, The New York Times reported, English called herself “acting director” and expressed gratitude to her CFPB colleagues “for your service.”

That was followed up by a memo from Mulvaney, who wrote to staffers that they “please disregard any instructions you receive from Ms. English in her presumed capacity as Acting Director.”

CNBC published an excerpt of the email:

“If you receive additional communications from her today in any form, related in any way to the function of her actual or presumed official duties (i.e. not personal), please inform the General Counsel.

“I apologise for this being the very first thing you hear from me. However, under the circumstances I suppose it is necessary.

“I look forward to working with all of you. If you’re at 1700 G Street today, please stop by the 4th Floor to say hello and grab a doughnut.”

Those emails represented the latest development in a tug-of-war over the agency’s leadership.

On Sunday, English, calling herself the “rightful acting director,” filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking a temporary restraining order to prevent Mulvaney from fulfilling Trump’s appointment.

The dispute stems from a question of who has the authority to appoint an interim director

Either English or Mulvaney will serve as acting director until the Senate can confirm a permanent nominee.

Both Trump and Cordray‘s allies have claimed they have the legal authority to name an acting director of the consumer watchdog agency. This skirmish centres on language in the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act and whether it usurps the 1998 Federal Vacancies Reform Act.

Trump and his allies say the 1998 law gives him the authority to make the appointment rather than Cordray, who was nominated by President Barack Obama to head the independent agency. The general counsel for the CFPB has sided with the Trump administration on the matter.

But Warren and others on the left say that Dodd-Frank was written with the Vacancies Act in mind and explicitly calls for the bureau’s director, not the president, to name an acting director.

The relevant section of Dodd-Frank says the deputy director “shall be appointed by the director; and serve as acting director in the absence or unavailability of the director.” The heart of the dispute is whether “absence” or “unavailability” means a vacancy.

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