There's a great deal of legal uncertainty surrounding who, exactly, is the legitimate acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Usually, at least in this country, these kinds of questions simply don't arise, but as of this morning, the CFPB still has a bit of a "two popes" problem.
Nevertheless, Donald Trump's choice to lead the agency, at least for now, is his right-wing budget director, Mick Mulvaney. That's notable for all sorts of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that Mulvaney opposes the existence of the consumer protection agency he now claims to be leading.
With that in mind, the OMB chief declared yesterday morning, on his first day as the supposed leader of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, "Rumors that I'm going to set the place on fire, or blow it up or lock the doors, are completely false."
As Rachel joked on the show last night, the fact that he felt the need to say this at all on his first day wasn't exactly a good sign.
But at the same introductory event, Mulvaney was asked about his record of condemning the CFPB, including the fact that he called the agency "a sad, sick joke." Does Mulvaney stand by his positions? Here's what he told reporters:
"I don't know how to answer that question. I'll talk about my previous statements about the bureau. How about that? Yeah, my opinion of the structure of the CFPB has not changed. I still think it's an awful example of a bureaucracy that has gone wrong."
Oh. So it appears that Mulvaney is running an agency whose existence he's long opposed -- and he hasn't changed his mind.
Indeed, on his first day as the sort-of acting director, after promising not to set fire to the building Mulvaney nonetheless implemented "a temporary freeze on hiring and new regulations."
For those keeping score, Mulvaney is hardly the first member of the Trump administration to reject the mission of the agency he leads. Betsy DeVos is a Secretary of Education who opposes public schools; Rick Perry is the Secretary of Energy despite his call for the elimination of the Department of Energy; and Scott Pruitt leads an Environmental Protection Agency he's fought to undermine for years.
This extends beyond the president's cabinet, too. Trump tapped Scott Garrett to lead the U.S. Export-Import Bank, despite the fact that Garrett doesn't believe there should be a U.S. Export-Import Bank. Trump asked a contraception critic, Teresa Manning, to oversee implementation of the Title X program, which means she'll oversee contraception access for millions of low-income Americans. Trump tapped Daniel Simmons, a conservative opponent of promoting renewable energy sources, in charge of a federal office that exists to "create and sustain American leadership in the transition to a global clean-energy economy."
As we've discussed before, it appears this president prefers to ignore a fairly straightforward principle: don't choose people who fundamentally reject the work of a department to be in charge of that department.