Newly obtained documents raise the question of whether Elizabeth Warren, a top aide to President Obama and liberal darling, lied to Congress in downplaying her role in ongoing settlement negotiations over a major legal dispute.
Warren, who has said she is “advising” the President on establishing the nascent Consumer Financial Protection Bureau [CFPB] – a new federal agency created by the Dodd-Frank financial reform law that does not obtain any legal authority until July 21 – is actually leading the organization as if it already existed, documents show.
Her aggressive push of “CFPB’s view,” as one email puts it, is important because as recently as May 24 Warren downplayed her role, saying three times she was only providing advice “when asked.”
“We’ve given our advice when we’ve been asked for advice … we gave advice where asked … we have given advice to the Department of Justice when asked,” she said under questioning by North Carolina Republican Rep. Patrick McHenry.
The documents, obtained by watchdog group Judicial Watch, show Warren sought to provide “CFPB’s view” when no one was asking.
“Elizabeth Warren would like to present the CFPB’s view on loan modifications,” wrote Iowa assistant attorney general Patrick Madigan in a Feb. 25 email to numerous state officials.
Warren’s role is important not only because, until July 21, CFPB has no legal authority, but also because Warren — whose at times grating tone has earned her enemies on Capitol Hill — was spared the scrutiny of the Senate confirmation process and appointed “special advisor” to Obama instead of CFPB’s head.
That may explain why it’s necessary for Warren to stress secrecy in her dealings with state officials.
In a Feb. 15 email about an earlier briefing, for instance, Madigan said, “The CFPB wanted me to stress the confidential nature of this briefing.”
Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton said CFPB “is being born in an atmosphere of secrecy and cover-up” and added that CFPB has resisted complying with document requests under the Freedom of Information Act.
At the May 24 hearing, McHenry said in his opening statement that documents he had obtained raise “concerns about the veracity of her [earlier] testimony.”
“Congress received evidence that Professor Warren and the bureau were deeply involved in the negotiations,” he said.
At the hearing, McHenry pointed to a presentation given by Warren that was pushing specific policy positions in the negotiations to a state attorney general.
Warren, in an April 4 letter, said she was “providing advice” to state officials and the Justice Department on the negotiations. “In doing so, we have been an active participant in inter-agency discussions,” she wrote.
In the same letter, however, Warren wrote the CFPB “is not conducting settlement negotiations.”
Warren did not respond to a request for an interview, and her description of being an “active participant” is vague. In the May 24 hearing, she was clearer, saying three times that she was “providing advice when asked.”
McHenry declined to comment. Madigan did not respond to requests for comment.