By KATIE ROGERS and TARA SIEGEL BERNARD
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump’s deregulation push got a boost after a federal judge denied an emergency request on behalf of an Obama-era holdover who disputed Trump’s decision to appoint a new acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, delivering a legal victory to the White House, which argued that the president had the authority to install a new leader.
The ruling addressed a partisan legal spat at an agency thrown into chaos as two acting directors publicly laid claim to the title of rightful, if temporary, leadership. Both used every tool at their disposal, including baked goods and multiple all-staff emails. But the ruling effectively installed Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s pick and the current director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, as the acting leader of the bureau.
On Tuesday afternoon at a hearing, where attendees lined up behind a velvet rope and an overflow room had been set up, Judge Timothy J. Kelly of the U.S. District Court in Washington jokingly remarked that there had “been some interest in our proceedings.”
In his ruling, Kelly sided with lawyers for Trump and Mulvaney on the grounds that the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, signed into law in 1998, gives the White House the authority to appoint a replacement.
Legal experts and consumer advocates say the decision will most likely continue a protracted legal battle first initiated by Leandra English, who was elevated Friday to acting deputy director and presumed acting director when Richard Cordray, an appointee of President Barack Obama, resigned a week earlier than expected. The dispute over who would lead the bureau intensified Sunday night, when English asked the court to provide an emergency restraining order to block Trump from appointing Mulvaney.
Deepak Gupta, a lawyer for English and a former senior counsel for the consumer bureau, said after the hearing that his legal team would be examining options going forward. One option, he said, would be to seek a preliminary injunction, a move similar in nature to English’s earlier restraining order request, but which would take longer to decide.
“Everyone understands this court is not the final stop,” Gupta said. “This judge does not have the final word in what happens in this controversy, and I think he understands that.”