President Donald Trump's appointment of his budget director as interim director of a consumer financial protection agency championed by Democrats was challenged in a lawsuit filed in federal court Sunday night.
Leandra English, the federal official elevated to the position of interim director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau by its outgoing director, filed the suit against Trump and his choice, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney.
The suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia asked for a declaratory judgment and a temporary restraining order to block Mulvaney from taking over the bureau.
English cited the Dodd-Frank Act, which created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. She said that as deputy director, she became the acting director under the law and argued that the federal law the White House contends supports Trump's appointment of Mulvaney doesn't apply when another statute designates a successor.
English was chief of staff to bureau director Richard Cordray when he named her deputy director as he prepared to resign last Friday. Cordray was appointed to the position by President Barack Obama and has been long criticized by congressional Republicans as overzealous.
The White House, with the support of an opinion issued Saturday by the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, maintained that the president has the power to appoint an acting director. Steven A. Engel, newly confirmed head of the office, wrote that, while the deputy director may serve as acting director under the statute, the president still has authority under the Vacancies Reform Act.
A new director must be confirmed by the Senate. Earlier Sunday, Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the third-ranking GOP leader, pledged swift action whenever Trump nominates a successor to Cordray. Meanwhile, Thune said he expected that Mulvaney "will be on the job and he'll be calling the shots over there," but acknowledged the issue could end up in court.
Beyond the fight over who's in charge is the future direction of the bureau, created after the 2008 financial crisis and given a broad mandate as a watchdog for consumers when they deal with banks and credit card, student loan and mortgage companies, as well as debt collectors and payday lenders.