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Duel over who runs the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau goes to court

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau opened for business on Monday with dueling appointees. Leandra English was named acting director on Friday by the bureau's outgoing chief, but within hours President Trump appointed White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney to the same job. English filed a federal lawsuit Sunday. William Brangham reports.

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  • William Brangham:

    At the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau today, a simple question- Who’s the boss? The answer, it turns out, is not so simple.

    Protesters opposing President Trump, and supporting the CFPB, turned out this morning. While the president’s choice as interim director, White House Budget Chief Mick Mulvaney, brought donuts, his rival, Leandra English, e-mailed Thanksgiving wishes and met with Senate Democratic leaders.

    On Friday, outgoing Director Richard Cordray tapped English, his chief of staff, to temporarily fill his shoes. But, within hours, the president tapped Mulvaney, who, today, directed employees to disregard any further instructions from English.

    He also announced a 30-day freeze on hiring and new rule-making.

  • Mick Mulvaney:

    I’m just learning about the powers that I have as acting director. They would frighten most of you. They would probably worry you to think about how little oversight Congress has over me.

  • William Brangham:

    But English maintains she has the legal authority to lead under the Dodd-Frank Act. That’s the law that created the bureau.

    She filed a federal lawsuit Sunday night seeking to bar Mulvaney from assuming the post. The White House cites the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, which allows the president to fill openings.

    White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders-

  • Sarah Huckabee Sanders:

    I think that the legal outline shows very clearly who is in charge of that agency, and both he and the White House, as well as the general counsel for CFPB, said that he has the legal standing to be there and serve as the director.

  • William Brangham:

    The CFPB was formed in 2011 as part of the response to the 2008 financial crisis. Its mission is to oversee financial institutions, to encourage them to make less risky decisions, and to safeguard consumers from financial fraud.

    Big banks and conservatives have long maligned the CFPB for being too powerful and lacking oversight.

    On Saturday, the president tweeted the CFPB — quote — “has been a total disaster. Financial institutions have been devastated and unable to properly serve the public.”

    Mulvaney himself has echoed those criticisms, as he did in this 2014 interview when he was a South Carolina congressman.

  • Mick Mulvaney:

    It turns up being a joke, and that’s what the CFPB really has been, in a sick, sad kind of way, because you have got an institution that has tremendous authority over what you all do for a living.

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