Mick Mulvaney orders 30-day hiring, regulations freeze on CFPB

By Ed Adamczyk, Danielle Haynes and Daniel Uria  |  Updated Nov. 27, 2017 at 5:49 PM
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Nov. 27 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump's selection for director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau ordered a temporary freeze on hiring and new regulations Monday.

Mick Mulvaney said the freezes, including one on civil penalty payments, will last 30 days, adding that the bureau will continue to meet its legal and statutory deadlines.

"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 met with senior staff and held a broader meeting with several dozen more employees. He said his first day as acting director of the CFPB was "extraordinarily smooth and professional."

He said he made no contact with Leandra English, former CFPB director Richard Cordray's choice for the job as acting director.

Mulvaney said he has no plans to fire English, who filed a lawsuit late Sunday saying Trump overstepped his authority by trying to replace her with Mulvaney, and would be open to meeting with her if she arrives at work.

The resignation Friday of Cordray came after he appointed English, his former chief of staff, as acting director.

Trump, however, announced that Mulvaney, Office of Management and Budget director, will take over the leadership post instead.

English argues in her lawsuit, filed late Sunday, that the court should deny the Trump administration's claim that the Federal Vacancies Reform Act permits him to appoint a new director.

"The president's purported or intended appointment of defendant Mulvaney as acting director of the CFPB is unlawful," the legal challenge states. "The president's use of the Federal Vacancies Reform Act to appoint an acting director of the CFPB would be an obvious contravention of Congress's statutory scheme."

English and Mulvaney sent emails to CFPB staff as acting head of the agency.

English sent a message saying she hoped everyone had a good holiday weekend.

"With Thanksgiving in mind, I wanted to take a moment to share my gratitude to all of you for your service," she wrote, signing the letter as "acting director."

Mulvaney's letter invited the staff to his CFPB for morning doughnuts. He also addressed the conflict.

"Please disregard any instructions you receive from Ms. English in her presumed capacity as acting director," he wrote.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said the CFPB's general counsel agreed with the Trump administration's interpretation of the law, allowing the president to name an acting director.

"Director Mulvaney has taken charge of that agency and has the full cooperation of the staff and things went very well during his first day," she said in Monday's press briefing. "I think the legal outline shows very clearly who is in charge of that agency."

The CFPB was established in 2011 to protect consumers in dealings with banks regarding debt collection, credit card and loan companies. Republicans have said the agency has too much power and unnecessarily burdens banks and credit card companies. Mulvaney, while a member of Congress, co-sponsored a bill to eliminate the agency.

A permanent director of the agency must be nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told CNN Sunday that Trump is on "good ground" to appoint Mulvaney and called the CFPB "the most out of control, unaccountable federal agency in Washington."

Mary McLeod, CFPB general counsel, said in a memo this weekend that Trump has the power to appoint Mulvaney.

"Statutory language, legislative history, precedent from the Office of Legal Counsel at the Department of Justice and case law all point to the conclusion that the president may use the Vacancies Reform Act to designate an acting official, even when there is a succession statute under which another official may serve as acting," she wrote.

"It's a watchdog agency. Wall Street hates it like the devil hates holy water, and they're trying to put an end to it with Mr. Mulvaney stepping into Cordray's spot," Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., countered.

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