U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly sided with the Trump administration Tuesday afternoon, after an Obama-era agency official attempted to stop the president from installing White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney as acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).
Kelly announced Tuesday that he would not issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) enjoining the president from installing an interim director at the agency. The announcement is not a ruling on the merits of the controversy, though it is a strong sign Kelly is prepared to rule for the Trump administration.
Former CFPB Director Richard Cordray resigned in late November, but designated his chief of staff Leandra English as deputy director before finalizing his departure. Under the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, that chartered the CFPB, the agency’s deputy director may become the acting director when the director is “absent or unavailable.”
In response, President Donald Trump exercised his authority under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act to name Mulvaney the acting director. English sued, claiming the appointment was unlawful, since Dodd-Frank specifically proscribes a succession procedure.
Mulvaney assumed the acting directorship Monday, and has been working from the director’s office at the agency’s Washington headquarters. The CFPB general counsel, Mary McLeod, circulated a memo among agency leadership on Nov. 25 explaining that, in her view, Trump has the authority to name an acting director.
For her part, English has also carried on as the acting director, huddling with Democratic lawmakers and agency officials.
“Today, I plan on spending the day at CFPB headquarters taking calls and meetings with external stakeholders and bureau staff,” she said in a Tuesday statement.
After the decision, she vowed to continue her legal fight against the president, and noted that Kelly is a Trump-appointee.
Judge Kelly was among Trump’s first appointments to the federal bench. English will likely appeal the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, though it is not clear that Kelly’s ruling is immediately appealable as TROs are generally not appealable.
The administration expressed support for the ruling, and accused Democrats of enabling an unlawful stunt.
“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,” Principal Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah said in a statement. “It’s time for the Democrats to stop enabling this brazen political stunt by a rogue employee and allow Acting Director Mulvaney to continue the Bureau’s smooth transition into an agency that truly serves to help consumers.”
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