A federal court sided with President Trump's administration Monday in a lawsuit over who leads the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly ruled against Leandra English in her quest to be named the acting director of the CFPB, refusing to issue a temporary restraining order that would allow her to assume control of the bureau.
The White House said in a statement it "applauds the court’s decision, which provides further support for the president’s rightful authority to designate Director [Mick] Mulvaney as acting director of the CFPB."
"It’s time for the Democrats to stop enabling this brazen political stunt by a rogue employee and allow Acting Director Mulvaney to continue the Bureau’s smooth transition into an agency that truly serves to help consumers," the White House said.
Both English and Mulvaney, who also is director of the Office of Management and Budget, say they legally are the acting director of the bureau following former director Richard Cordray's resignation on Friday.
Cordray sought to make English his successor by naming her deputy director. The 2010 Dodd-Frank law that established the CFPB says that when a director is absent, the deputy director becomes acting director.
The White House, backed by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel and the CFPB’s general counsel, point to the older Federal Vacancies Reform Act as allowing for presidential appointment of an acting director.
In delivering his ruling orally from the bench, Kelly refused to fast-track an appeal, as English's attorney Deepak Gupta requested.
Justice Department attorney Brett Shumate argued the Kelly's courtroom was not a mere "pit stop" on the way to the appeals court, and Kelly said he agreed and would require a separate motion and set of briefs before ruling on a preliminary injunction, denial of which would set the stage for an appeal.
“That may be quick enough for you, that may not be,” the judge told Gupta.
After the hearing, Gupta told a group of reporters he wasn’t sure what the next step would be, and that he needed to discuss the matter with English, who did not attend the hearing.
“I’m going to have to explore the options with my client, so I don’t know what the next step is,” he said. Hinting that English dropping her case was unlikely, he also said “this judge does not have the final word on what happens in this controversy and I think he understands that.”
The leadership struggle between Mulvaney and English featured dueling Monday emails to CFPB staff identifying themselves as the officeholder, though a spokesman for Mulvaney tweeted a photo of him actually sitting in the director’s office.
Mulvaney, a longtime critic of the bureau, brought doughnuts to the CFPB on Monday morning and appears to be accepted by bureau leadership. Gupta said English reported for work again on Tuesday but that he's concerned that Mulvaney will try to fire her.
In ruling against English the judge, a Trump nominee, found among other things that English had not demonstrated a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of the case.
Gupta has not said who is paying him to represent English. “No, I haven’t said that yet,” he told the Washington Examiner before entering a courtroom elevator.