WASHINGTON – After Richard Cordray made a welcome departure, President Trump quickly appointed budget hawk Mick Mulvaney, former White House budget director as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) acting director.
Cordray’s departure comes after much criticism from Trump and several rumors of Cordray planning to run for office, including reports from this publication that Cordray met with leading Democratic strategists while he served as director.
The former director’s departure was so welcome leading Congresswoman Ann Wagner had two words for Cordray: Good riddance.
New leadership under Mulvaney has come with unsuccessful legal challenges, donuts, and promises of protection without infringement.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or CFPB, has been a total disaster as run by the previous Administrations pick. Financial Institutions have been devastated and unable to properly serve the public. We will bring it back to life!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 25, 2017
At a Monday press conference, Mulvaney told reporters that not only would the agency stay open, but that it would be a different CFPB under Trump than under the previous administration.
“Rumors that I’m going to set the place on fire or blow it up or lock the doors are completely false,” Mulvaney said.
Mulvaney described his first day at CFPB as “extraordinarily smooth.” One of the first things done was clarifying that no staff was to take orders from Leandra English, who assumed the role after Cordray left.
The White House said “the law is clear” — and in their favor, which was confirmed again on Tuesday.
“Director Mulvaney has taken charge of that agency and he has the cooperation of the staff and appeared there this morning and things went very well,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Monday afternoon, adding that Mulvaney is “the right person at this time” to head up the watchdog agency.
An opinion from the attorney general stated the President was in the right and could indeed appoint someone to the role.
“For the reasons set forth above, we conclude that the President may designate an Acting Director of the CFPB under 5 U.S.C.§3345(A)(2) or (3), because both the Vacancies Reform Act and the office-specific statute are available to fill a vacancy in that office on an acting basis”
“I apologize for this being the very first thing you hear from me,” the memo from Mulvaney continued. “However, under the circumstances I suppose it is necessary.”
He also encouraged staffers in the office to “please stop by the 4th Floor to say hello and grab a donut.”
— john czwartacki (@CZ) November 27, 2017
Mulvaney relayed concerns about the agency, which were echoed by lawmakers.
Sen. Lindsey Graham echoed Trump’s criticism of the agency as “a total disaster as run by the previous administration’s pick,” saying it’s “out of control” and raising the cost of banks doing business.
“Really no oversight at all,” Graham said. “They can get into everybody’s business. I don’t think they added much at all to the consumer protection. They sure add a lot to increasing costs for midsize banks throughout the country that had nothing to do with the financial collapse.”
Mulvaney said he was surprised at the unchecked powers afforded to the bureau – including his.
“I am just finding out about the powers I have as acting director and they would frighten most of you,” he said. “It’s frightening to think about how little oversight Congress has over me now as I am the director.”
Mulvaney said he will spend three days a week at the CFPB.
“This agency will stay open. Rumors that I’m going to set the place on fire, or blow it up or lock the doors are completely false,” he said. “I am a member of the executive branch of government. We intend to execute the laws of the United States. …Since my name is on the door, I want to be here.”
While Mulvaney said he wasn’t there “to shut the place down,” but announced a swift set of changes late Monday afternoon, including the hiring freeze as well as a freeze on any new agency guidelines in the pipeline and on payments out of a civil penalties fund for 30 days.
“I’m just learning about the powers that I have as acting director,” Mulvaney said. “They would frighten most of you” due to “how little oversight Congress has over me now.”
When asked if he would close the CFPB if given the legal opportunity, he signaled he would advocate dissolving the agency with other agencies absorbing its watchdog role.
But, for now, Mulvaney plans to do the job tasked by the President.
“He wants me to get it back to the point where it can protect people without trampling on capitalism.”