Trump tests limits of Rule of Law with move to appoint his own acting director for CFPB
News broke this week that President Trump is "appointing" an acting director for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), a move opposed by consumer advocates all across the country. Trump's move followed on the heels of the announcement that Richard Cordray, the outgoing director, was stepping down and naming his chief of staff, Leandra English, as acting director.
The CFPB has drawn criticism and push back from Wall Street banks and lending institutions since its creation after the 2008 Housing Crisis. It was created by the Dodd-Frank Act as a bureau independent of the Executive Branch and serves as the nation's largest consumer watchdog. Since its creation, it has taken on big banks and lenders on issues such as predatory mortgage lending, payday lending, credit cards, and payday and title loans.
President Trump's choosing of Mick Mulvaney, the current White House budget director and an outspoken critic of the CFPB, will most likely be good news for Wall Street and will most likely reflect in how the stock market moves on Monday.
Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), one of the architects of the CFPB, blasted Trump on Twitter:
Sen. Warren references Section 1011(a)(5)(B) in making the point that Leandra English, who was appointed deputy director by outgoing Director Cordray, is the acting director. Sen. Warren goes on to argue that while President Trump may nominate a new director for the CFPB, the nominee must go through the Senate confirmation process prior to being installed as the director of the agency.
President Trump's ignorance of the Dodd-Frank Act is yet another big notch in the Rule of Law and a drift toward the Rule of One Man in America. We have an agency designed to be independent and safeguarded from undue influence from the Executive Branch, with a director who can only be fired for cause, with a provision designating who is to become the acting director "in the absence or unavailability of the director."
Yet President Trump has taken it upon himself to ignore the history of the agency, ignore the laws on the books, and to try and appoint one of his own as head of the nation's largest consumer watchdog. Even more surprising is that the Department of Justice, headed by Attorney General Jeff Sessions--a self-avowed proponent of the Rule of Law-- signed off on President Trump's subversion of the Dodd-Frank Act.
The battle over who is the rightful acting director will most likely head to the courts. But given President Trump's disdain for the Judicial Branch during the the fight over the Muslim ban, and the willingness of Federal employees to willfully ignore Federal court orders, the careful separation of powers and checks and balances put in place and strengthened over the course of more than two centuries hangs in the balance.
As Forbes has reported, "Even as lawyers won temporary stays in federal courts, reportedly government officials ignored the full extent and continued to deport at least some travelers." The Department of Homeland Security even issued a statement saying the ban was still in effect.
This is another dangerous step toward despotism if Americans on both sides of the aisle let it slide. Both Republicans and Democrats should be opposed to this obvious obfuscation of the Rule of Law.