EXCLUSIVE: CFPB’s Leandra English Prepared Legal Case Against Trump On Government Time, Sources Say
What exactly does Leandra English do at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as its second-highest official?
Not much, it seems, except apparently working on her pending lawsuit against the Trump administration — and on government time, according to a Daily Caller News Foundation investigation.
English, as its current deputy director, also disappeared for five full weeks earlier this year when she inexplicably moved 3,000 miles away from Washington, D.C., to work in the agency’s tiny San Francisco office.
President Donald Trump initially appointed Office of Management And Budget (OMB) Director Mick Mulvaney to head the agency in November when then-Director Richard Cordray, an Obama appointee, abruptly quit to seek the Ohio Democratic Party’s nomination for governor. Cordray named English his successor upon his departure, but the president invoked the Vacancies Reform Act of 1998 and installed Mulvaney.
English twice lost in federal court. She sought a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction to oust Mulvaney. Federal Judge Timothy Kelly, a Trump appointee, decided the case.
The Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit is scheduled to hear oral arguments Thursday about why Mulvaney should be dethroned and English should become the bureau’s next director.
English may claim she is CFPB’s leader, but she rarely shows up at work in her Washington, D.C., office, according to four CFPB employees who talked to TheDCNF on the basis of anonymity.
The public, however, can view her day-to-day activities in a “Leadership Calendar” that is posted on the CFPB’s web site. It is very revealing.
One of the more mysterious entries is her extended West Coast calendar, which runs from Jan. 9 until Feb. 19. English’s calendar is nearly empty for the entire five weeks save phone check-ins, and either conceals activities or suggests she never spent time working in the small, twelve-person CFPB office.
Her departure from Washington, D.C., to San Francisco came the day before Kelly denied her second request for an injunction.
CFPB spokesman Samuel Gilford has declined to explain her absence from the bureau’s headquarters and refused to describe the work she actually conducted while in San Francisco.
“An important question remains: What exactly does Leandra English do all day at the CFPB,” Rep. Sean Duffy, chairman of the House Financial Services subcommittee on housing and insurance, wrote TheDCNF in an email. The House Financial Services Committee has oversight of the CFPB.
As a top CFPB manager, English receives a $217,845 salary or a gross federal salary of $4,189 per week. This means she was paid $20,946 for her five weeks in the San Francisco office.
In creating the CFPB, President Barack Obama housed the bureau in the Federal Reserve. As a result, CFPB employee salaries are exempt from federal pay limits. Many bureau officials, including English, earn more than sitting cabinet secretaries, Supreme Court justices, members of Congress or even some governors.
In testimony before the Senate Banking Committee, Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas asked Mulvaney what English was doing at the bureau. “I don’t know,” Mulvaney replied adding he never met her.
English was entitled to other financial benefits when she traveled to California. She received hotel and meal per diems while in San Francisco, which is one of the most expensive cities in the country. CFPB allows up to $276 per day for hotels and up to $77 for meals, according to CFPB. Her stay in San Francisco could have cost taxpayers up to $12,708, not including airfare.
Based on her daily calendar, while in Washington, English held discussions with the authors and signatories of friendly amicus briefs — or supportive legal briefs — that were subsequently filed on her behalf before the U.S. Court of Appeals.
One set of English’s discussions were with Democratic state attorneys general. All of those who she spoke with were part of a February 2018 amicus brief that sixteen states and the District of Columbia filed supporting her.
On Nov. 28, 2017, English began a morning meeting titled “AG Outreach.” At 10 a.m., she took a call from Massachusetts Democratic Attorney General Maura General Healey. At 3:30 p.m., she took a call from the District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine, also a Democrat. And at 5 p.m., she spoke with Democratic Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh.
The amicus brief was physically filed by Racine along with Stacey L. Anderson, Loren L Alikhan and Carl Schifferle, all aides to Racine. Schifferle signed and submitted the brief before the Court of Appeals. State Attorneys General Healey and Frosh joined the same brief.
“It’s alarming that she reportedly is scheming with Democrat attorneys general in order to sue the Trump Administration,” said Duffy. “That would be a poor use of taxpayer dollars and misses the mark of the agency’s stated mission to help consumers.”
I find it highly suspicious that she’s meeting with those attorneys general while on government time in support of her claim while she was in her office,” said Philip Kerpen, president of American Commitment, a conservative research and activist organization.
“She was using her time on the taxpayer dollar to plot her lawsuit against the United States Government while conferring with liberal state attorneys general. I think that’s a pretty severe misuse of taxpayer resources,” Kerpin told TheDCNF in an interview.
U.S. statute 5 CFR 2635 prohibits federal employees from working during regular business hours on matters of personal “private gain.”
“An employee shall not use his public office for his own private gain, for the endorsement of any product, service or enterprise, or for the private gain,” according to the statute.
Another English call was on Dec. 11, which English describes as “call from civil rights groups.”
Activist groups, including civil rights groups, subsequently filed a Feb. 6 amicus brief on English’s behalf. The brief was signed by a number of innocuous sounding groups including Americans for Financial Reform and the Center for Responsible Lending.
But, as the parties admit in their court brief, Americans for Financial Reform is a civil rights organization and a project of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and The Leadership Conference Education Fund.
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights is a coalition of 30 civil rights and labor unions and include the NAACP, the Equal Justice Society, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Human Rights Campaign, according to its website.
Importantly, their leaders are people who themselves have been associated with organizations plagued with serious financial mismanagement, problems which CFPB claims it wishes to address.
Lisa Donner is the executive director for Americans for Financial Reform. She originally worked for ACORN, the discredited progressive organization which closed its doors in 2010 amid charges of financial mismanagement and embezzlement. A 2010 report by the California secretary of state concluded ACORN “discovered four possible instances of voter registration fraud” and “failed to implement internal controls and procedures sufficient to account for and protect charitable assets.”
Moreover, The New York Times in 2008 found that Dan Rathke the brother of ACORN founder Wade Rathke, had embezzled nearly $1 million from the group which had been hushed up by its board for eight years.
The Leadership Conference Education Fund is another civil rights organization. Its chairman is William Robinson, who was the founding dean of the University of the District of Columbia of Law School. During Robinson’s tenure at the law school the American Bar Association threatened to revoke the law school’s accreditation.
A 1997 Washington Post article on the law school chronicled its persistent poor performance under Robinson. “In the past, the school has been criticized by the ABA for low faculty salaries, insufficient law library expenditures, low staffing levels in some areas and low bar passage rates,” The Post reported.
Joining Robinson on the Leadership Conference Education Fund board is Mary Frances Berry, who President George W. Bush replaced after two-and-a-half decades on the federal U.S. Civil Rights Commission.
Berry also has been denounced for her incendiary comments while on the commission. Linda Chavez, who served both Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, was the staff director for the civil right commission when Berry was sitting on the body. Chavez noted that Berry praised the Chinese educational system, which during Mao’s bloody Cultural Revolution sent millions of Chinese intellectuals, teachers and students to internment camps where they faced imprisonment and torture, in Human Events in 2004. Chavez was keenly aware of Chinese human rights violations against educators and students as she served a four-year term on the United Nations Human Rights Commission.
Chavez said Berry frequently praised China’s education system as a role model for the world and attacked the U.S. “Berry, then the government’s top-ranking official in higher education, nonetheless praised China’s education system as a model for the United States and publicly criticized the press for printing ‘false’ reports about the Chinese system,” Chavez wrote.
English met with and spoke with a number of Democratic members of Congress in late November 2017. On Nov. 27, she held a 3:30 p.m. meeting with Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts in the Capitol Building. She joined them in a press conference afterward. At 6 p.m. that day she met with Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown from Ohio. On Nov. 30, at 11 a.m. she met with California Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters.
Warren, Brown and Waters were signatories for a Feb. 6, 2018, congressional amicus brief.
“It appears to me that she is actually doing things totally unrelated to the job that she is being paid by taxpayers,” Kerpen told TheDCNF.
English’s lawyers also may have attempted to mislead the Court of Appeals with the submission of presumably an “independent” amicus brief filed by attorney Peter Conti-Brown. Brown claimed in his brief he was an independent source and identified himself as a “scholar” and an “assistant professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.”
“No party’s counsel authored this brief in whole or in part. Neither party nor any party’s counsel contributed money that was intended to fund the preparation or submission of this brief,” he wrote.
Brown claims in the brief he is a “scholar” and an “assistant professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.”
What the lawyer neglected to mention is that from 2013 to 2016 he served as “Of Counsel” at Gupta/Wessler, English’s the law firm handling English’s lawsuit. The “Of Counsel” position allowed him to work on behalf of the law firm’s business.
The Trump administration told the court in its brief that if it removes Mulvaney, “the CFPB Directorship would remain vacant, creating grave uncertainty about what actions the agency could take to execute the laws.”