President Trump on Friday named White House budget director Mick Mulvaney as the acting chief of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as Richard Cordray prepared to depart the agency.
Cordray announced that Friday would be his last day as the bureau’s director and appointed a new deputy in hopes of keeping an ally in charge until the Senate confirms for the job a nominee from President Trump.
But a few hours after Cordray sent his resignation to Trump, the president announced he was installing Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, to be the bureau’s acting chief during what could be a lengthy confirmation process for a yet-to-be named nominee, setting up a potential legal fight over temporary leadership of the bureau.
“The president looks forward to seeing Director Mulvaney take a common sense approach to leading the CFPB’s dedicated staff, an approach that will empower consumers to make their own financial decisions and facilitate investment in our communities,” the White House said.
Cordray wrote to Trump on Friday saying he would resign effective midnight Eastern time. The letter followed one Cordray sent Nov. 15 telling Trump that he planned to step down by the end of the month.
“I am grateful to have been able to serve my country in this capacity, and in departing I now look forward to finding further ways to continue to advocate for those who are facing economic anxiety and uncertainty in their lives,” Cordray wrote to Trump on Friday, touting the accomplishments of the agency.
Speculation has swirled that Cordray, a Democrat, will run for governor of his home state of Ohio next year. The letter made no mention of his future plans and the consumer bureau said there would be no additional comment.
Republicans opposed creation of the bureau. And they have criticized Cordray’s aggressive actions against banks and other financial firms.
Trump is expected to appoint a director who is more industry friendly.
Cordray took a step Friday to try to keep his imprint on the bureau until a new director is in place, a period that could last for months. He said in an email to bureau staff that he had promoted his chief of staff, Leandra English, to be deputy director.
English, a bureau veteran, returned to the agency in January after a stint as the principal deputy chief of staff at the Office of Personnel Management.
English replaces David Silberman, associate director of the bureau’s Research, Markets and Regulations Division, who had been serving as acting deputy director since January 2016.
The Dodd-Frank law, which created the bureau in 2010, says the deputy director becomes the acting head “in the absence or unavailability of the director.”
Cordray said he wanted to name a permanent deputy director “to ensure an orderly succession” for the bureau. English “has earned my trust and confidence over the years here and is highly familiar with all aspects of the bureau’s operations,” he said.
Cordray told his staff Friday that English will be the bureau’s acting director after he leaves.
But the law is unclear about whether the deputy director would take over in the case of a director’s resignation.
That opened the door for Trump to pick Mulvaney to serve as acting director in accordance with the Federal Vacancies Reform Act. Mulvaney would be in charge while a nominee moved through the Senate confirmation process.
The vacancy law allows the president to designate someone who already has been confirmed by the Senate to perform acting duties.