On Friday, Richard Cordray, the Obama-appointed Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) resigned to, likely, run for Governor of Ohio. As he did, he named his Chief of Staff Leandra English, as the new Deputy Directory, which means that, according to the 2010 Dodd-Frank law that created the CFPB, English becomes Acting Director of the Bureau.
Nonetheless, hours later on Friday, Donald Trump appointed Mick Mulvaney, his own chief of the White House Office of Management and Budget — and a long time foe of the CFPB, which he has described as a "sick, sad joke" — as the new Acting Director of the important consumer agency. The White House claims the authority of a 1998 law, the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, allows the President to make the appointment. A strict reading of the rule of law seems to suggest otherwise. But, today, we now have two different "Acting Directors" of the same federal agency.
We're joined on today's show by Georgetown University law professor and former CFPB advisor ADAM LEVITIN — who warned about this potential showdown well before it came to pass — to explain which law takes precedent, why Trump is so desperate to name Mulvaney as Acting Director rather than simply appoint a permanent chief at the CFPB, whether English's federal lawsuit filed on Sunday will prevail, and how the Trump/Mulvaney scheme represents several extraordinary conflicts of interest and a plan for a full regulatory capture of the (theoretically) independent executive agency.
Levitin describes this power battle as unprecedented in the US. "The closest thing I can think of is Bush v. Gore," he tells me. "For two different people claiming a federal office, I can't think of any situation like this in modern times. This seems like it's something out of Game of Thrones, where there are multiple contenders for the same throne."
In other unprecedented Trump Era news today: A hugely profitable media outlet named Meredith Corporation purchased Time Inc. (including TIME magazine, and others) over the weekend, with the help of $650 million from the far-right Koch Brothers; The US Senate is making a desperate run this week for massive tax cuts for hugely profitable corporations (like Meredith and Koch Industries), at the expensive of low- and middle-class Americans who will end up with increased taxes and cuts to social services like health care; And, finally, Trump, during a solemn ceremony for native American Navajo code talkers, used an offensive racial slur in describing Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) as "Pocahontas". It didn't go over well.
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