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Judge Rules Trump’s Pick Will Remain Acting CFPB Director

After a confusing day in which two separate officials claimed to be the rightful acting head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a federal judge on Tuesday ruled in favor of the president’s choice.

Judge Timothy Kelly declined to grant a temporary restraining order against the naming of Mick Mulvaney as acting CFPB chief, according to the Associated Press, essentially installing the Office of Management and Budget director in the position.

Leandra English, who was named deputy director of the bureau by outgoing head Richard Cordray, had filed a lawsuit on Monday seeking to block Mulvaney’s nomination, arguing that she was the rightful heir to the CFPB throne.

Both candidates claimed the legal upper hand, with Trump and Mulvaney citing federal law that allows presidents to nominate acting department heads, and English pointing to language in the Dodd-Frank act that requires the deputy director to assume the top spot in the director’s “absence or unavailability.”

But multiple legal experts thought English’s logic was wobbly: Since Cordray was the CFPB’s first and only chief, the agency had never gone through a transition of power before, and Ballard Spahr, LLP partner Christopher Willis told RMD on Monday that “absence or unavailability” may not correspond to a resignation. 

“I actually think the president has the better end of the argument,” said Willis, who runs the law firm’s Consumer Financial Services Litigation Group.

The move is a blow to English and Democratic allies such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon, who joined other progressive leaders in a lunchtime rally outside the CFPB’s headquarters protesting Mulvaney’s appointment.

The Trump administration, meanwhile, praised its legal victory.

“The Administration applauds the Court’s decision, which provides further support for the President’s rightful authority to designate Director Mulvaney as Acting Director of the CFPB,” White House spokesman Raj Shah told the AP in a statement.

At various points Monday, both Mulvaney and English had sent e-mails to CFPB staffers signed “Acting Director”; the former showed up to the agency’s headquarters with donuts, while the latter went to Capitol Hill to meet with lawmakers.

Written by Alex Spanko