Declaring President Donald Trump’s pick for acting director of a government watchdog agency an “impostor,” self-appointed leaders of the resistance argued Tuesday that the president has no right to fill a vacancy in the executive branch, which he heads.
Organized by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and featuring a parade of leftist speakers, the rally outside the headquarters of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) was meant to turn up the heat on the Trump administration. The president tapped his Office of Management and Budget director, Mick Mulvaney, to temporarily lead the agency until the Senate confirms a permanent director.
“Yes CFPB, no Mick Mulvaney,” the crowd chanted. As rallying cries go, it does not exactly roll off the tongue like “No blood for oil,” but it did get demonstrators going.
The rally played out as a federal judge considers arguments about a power struggle at the agency prompted by outgoing Director Richard Cordray, who named his deputy, Leandra English, as acting director. Trump countermanded that and picked Mulvaney, prompting English to sue.
“Mick Mulvaney is an impostor,” said Ben Wikler, Washington director of Moveon.org. “Mick Mulvaney does not run this agency. This is an attempt at an administrative coup by this administration, and the American public does not like coups.”
Wikler told the crowd that Mulvaney’s appointment represents an effort by Trump and wealthy bankers to “tear apart the cop of the beat that defends people like all of us from people like all of them.”
He repeated the legal arguments offered by English’s lawyers — that a provision in the 2010 Dodd-Frank law that created the agency mandates that the deputy director become acting director should a vacancy at the top occur.
“The rule of law is clear,” said Wikler. “When the CFPB was being created, there was a choice that Congress could make … It is clear as black and white ink in the congressional record.”
The administration, however, argues that the responsibility to name an acting director falls to the president under an older law, the Vacancies Reform Act. Some also contend that it is unconstitutional to create an independent executive branch agency free from direction by the president.
The lawsuit is before U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly, a Trump appointee, who will make a decision in the coming days.
Liberals feel a special connection to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau because it was in many ways the brainchild of progressive hero Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).
Washington lawyer Andrew Grossman on Tuesday tweeted that, according to a source in the agency, senior staff “vocally opposed Cordray/English gambit, which the two ‘cooked up’ themselves. Suggests ploy motivated more by politics than merits.”
Warren rejected that during a brief address at the rally.
“This isn’t about politics,” she said. “This is about what is fair. This agency has forced the biggest banks in this country to return more than $12 billion directly to consumers.”
Warren said the agency in six years has helped 29 million people.
“I believe that no one should get cheated on credit cards or mortgages or student loans,” she said, later adding, “Fair is fair, and that’s what this agency fights for.”
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) said the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is crucial because banks and credit card companies can easily find ways to avoid accountability when Congress tries to address financial issues one abuse at a time.
Merkley said it is important to insulate the bureau from the influence of predatory lenders and Wall Street executives. In addition to the line of succession, he noted, the statute also prohibits the firing of the agency’s director except for cause.
“There is a legitimate director right now,” he said. “And that person’s name is Miss English, Leandra English.”
(photo credit, homepage image: AFGE Participates in #StopFastTrack Rallies, cut out, CC BY 2.0, by AFGE / Mick Mulvaney, cut out, CC BY 3.0, by Gage Skidmore; photo credit, article image: Mick Mulvaney, CC BY-SA 2.0, by Gage Skidmore / Elizabeth Warren, CC BY 2.0, by New America)