Return to Transcripts main page


President Trump Appoints Mick Mulvaney to Head Consumer Financial Protection Bureau instead of Deputy Director; Terrorists Possibly Linked to ISIS Attack Mosque in Egypt; Roy Moore and Doug Jones Locked in Alabama Senate Race. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired November 25, 2017 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump named White House budget director Mick Mulvaney as interim chief of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau after its director stepped down. But that set up a political and legal clash because the outgoing director chose someone else. The White House is not defending the move, calling it routine and arguing that they have the law on their side. Let's get the very latest now with CNN's Boris Sanchez in Washington. So Boris, we're hearing now for the first time from the possible new acting director, Mulvaney.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Fred. He has been very critical of this agency before, though it appears that he is interested in working with some of the personnel to make it a more efficient agency. We also just heard from Representative Party Barney Frank who was a co-author of Frank-Dodd, which is the legislation that allowed this agency to be created in the first place. He's saying that this is unprecedented, that it was always intended for this agency to be separate from the rest of government. It makes for a very confusing situation, one that could potentially wind up in court.


SANCHEZ: Dueling appointments opening the door to a potential showdown between the White House and the country's top consumer watchdog agency. On Friday, the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Richard Cordray, resigned and named his chief of staff, Leandra English, as deputy director and his de facto replacement.

Just a few hours later, President Trump stepped in, naming his budget chief Mick Mulvaney as interim director, the move setting the stage for a political and possibly legal battle, and confusion over who would lead the CFPB come Monday morning. The president's pick is also controversial because of Mulvaney's previous comments on the agency which was created after the economic meltdown in 2008, designed to protect consumers from predatory financial institutions.

MICK MULVANEY, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET: It is a wonderful example of how a bureaucracy will function if it has no accountability to anybody. It turns up being a joke. And that's what CFPB really has been in a sad, sick kind of way. SANCHEZ: One of architects of the agency, Senator Elizabeth Warren,

argued that the president was overstepping his bounds and not following the law. In a tweet, she cited Dodd-Frank legislation which states that the deputy director of the CFPB would serve as acting director in the absence or unavailability of the director. On Saturday, the White House cited a different law, the Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998, to defend the appointment as a routine move.

A senior White House official told reporters on a call, quote, "We think that this move is clearly supported by a plain reading of the vacancies act. The vacancy act is long established, used by presidents of both parties as a routine function, and we believe this act is consistent with that long established practice." And according to another administration official, the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel has already signed off on Mulvaney's appointment. While a senior White House official said the administration hopes the dispute does not end up in court, they are ready to fight for the appointment.


SANCHEZ: Fred, I want to read part of the statement that we got from Mick Mulvaney this afternoon. He says, quote, "I believe Americans deserve a CFPB that seeks to protect them while ensuring free and fair marks for all consumers. Financial services are the engine of American democratic capitalism and we need to let it work. I look forward to working with expert personnel within the agency to identify how the bureau can transition to be more effective in its mission while becoming more accountable to the taxpayer."

A source close to Mick Mulvaney told CNN that it is not likely that he is going to be the permanent pick for this position. We are told he loves his job at the Office of Management and Budget and that he never envisioned himself leading this agency, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, Boris Sanchez, thank you so much.

Joining me to talk about this is Laurence Tribe. He is a constitutional law professor at Harvard. Professor, thank you so much for being with me this Thanksgiving weekend.


WHITFIELD: Thank you. Do you fear that a constitutional crisis is about to unfold if the president indeed pushes ahead with this appointment of Mulvaney being the interim as opposed to the deputy who becomes the interim?

TRIBE: Well, the law I think is very clear. When the CFPB was created in 2011, the House of Representatives wrote a draft that would have used the old 1998 federal vacancy reform act and would have given the president the power to appoint an interim director in the case of the absence or unavailability of the director.

[14:05:07] But the Senate wouldn't go along with that because it was clear if there was a president hostile to the agency he might use the appointment power to gut the agency, which is obviously what he's trying to do.

WHITFIELD: Because Mulvaney is on record as calling it a real joke.

TRIBE: He says it is a sick joke. And the sick joke is he would be the interim destroyer, not the interim director. And the law is very plain. The old law in 1998 was superseded by the new law. Time moves only in one direction. The 2011 law is specifically about the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the most important bureau in the country protecting people from fraudulent lenders, from being gouged, from being abused. And the president's attempt to do an end run around that law is a fundamental violation, not just of some technical language in section 1011B, 5B, but it is a fundamental end run around the rule of law.

A president that's lawless and who is trying to dismantle consumer protection is a danger. You asked if it would be a crisis. It certainly is going to be a clash. It will end up in court. I don't doubt the courts will rule that the interim director is Leandra English, who is the deputy director and automatically steps into the shoes of the director. It is not that he appoints her. He appointed her when she was chief of staff to the position of deputy. Now she just slides into his shoes.

WHITFIELD: So then who takes who to court?

TRIBE: Well, it could go either way. But it seems to me that there's a very strong argument for preliminary injunction or temporary restraining order preventing destroyer Mulvaney from locking out Leandra English and say I'm sorry, I am in the chair.

WHITFIELD: So who would file that?

TRIBE: It would be settled by federal courts and eventually perhaps by the United States Supreme Court on a fast track. The court, you know, can act very quickly to prevent presidents from getting around the law and they're not above the law. This is not Richard Nixon if I say it, it is the law, although Trump is kind of a Nixon wannabe and a Putin wannabe whenever he wants to be.

WHITFIELD: So do you see that the filing of that kind of injunction likely is happening this weekend so that Monday folks who work at the CFPB know who the interim is?

TRIBE: Well, it could happen. I am not privy to anyone's litigation strategy, but I think the reality on the ground is important. If Mulvaney slides into that office, locks the door and says, Leandra, you're very nice but you're not getting my desk, that will create status quo. That would create status quo. It would be a dramatic picture. I think the law is clear. The crisis would arise if the courts just don't apply the law and allow Trump to get away with consumer murder, which is really what this would be.

WHITFIELD: Wow, very strong. All right, Harvard professor Laurence Tribe, thank you so much for painting the picture and breaking it down for us.

TRIBE: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: Happy holiday weekend.

A mystery in Texas. Two U.S. border patrol agents found badly injured. One died, the other says he doesn't remember what happened. A live report from El Paso where the funeral was set to begin next hour.

Plus Egypt strikes back after a terror attack at a mosque kills more than 300 people. Was ISIS responsible?


[14:13:00] WHITFIELD: The death toll on that horrifying mosque attack continues to rise. Egyptian authorities now say 305 people were killed including 27 children. More than two dozen attackers surrounded the mosque, set off explosives, and then gunned down people as they tried to run. At least one of the attackers was seen carrying an ISIS flag. CNN's senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman is joining me now from Cairo. So has there been now any claim of responsibility?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Fredricka, no claims so far by ISIS or any group, although we have seen two denials from militant groups in Egypt, including the Al Qaeda affiliate in the Sinai. But as yet no claim of responsibility. Now as far as that report of one of the attackers carrying a flag, that comes from the Egyptian public prosecutor who put out a statement with some of the details that we haven't seen yet of this attack.

According to the statement five SUVs drove up outside this mosque, the Rawdah mosque, during midday prayers, 25 to 30 militants got out, some of them wearing combat fatigues, some with faces masked. They were carrying heavy weapons, heavy machine guns. They deployed around the mosque, some at the entrance, but others at each of the 12 windows of the mosque, let off some sort of explosion, and then opened fire, as you said, killing at least 305 people, 27 children, wounding 128. And of course that death toll could rise as they go through the scene and perhaps some of the wounded die as a result of this attack.

Now, yes, according to the public prosecutor one of the people or somebody had an ISIS flag. Certainly if you look at this attack, it does look very much in line with the kind of attacks we have seen in the past, and what's important, what's different about this attack, Fredricka, is that it was on a mosque.

[14:15:12] Now, over the last year we have seen a series of attacks. An attack on cathedral in Cairo on Palm Sunday, two attacks simultaneously on a church in the delta, another in Alexandria. But this time is a real game changer, an attack on a mosque. And this is why we heard President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi saying that he is going to respond with, in his words, brute force. Fredricka?

HUME: Ben Wedeman, thank you so much in Cairo. Back in this country, a funeral service begins next hour for border

patrol agent Rogelio Martinez. He died last week under mysterious circumstances. Federal officials are now investigating the incident that left Martinez dead and his partner injured. Authorities are offering up to $45,000 for information to lead to info about what happened. U.S. attorney general Jeff Sessions and others law enforcement official will be attending the service today.

CNN correspondent Scott McLean is in El Paso outside the church and joins me now. So Scott, what more are investigators saying about their investigation?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Fredricka. First, let me show you what we're seeing here, the funeral service, as you said, for Rogelio Martinez, a border patrol agent who died last weekend will get started in a little over an hour. But an hour from now you will start to see these border patrol agents, these law enforcement official from all over the state and all over the country line the street to watch Martinez's flag-draped coffin be carried into the Catholic Church here in El Paso. You mentioned Attorney General Jeff Sessions will be here as well as the acting chief of U.S. Border Patrol as well. There will also of course be plenty of family and friends.

And someone I ran into last night at the visitation, a group of 20 guys, men and women I should say who came from Martinez's former border patrol outpost or his station on the other side of the state. They came here on their own time, on their own expense to pay respects to their friend, the guy they said was always smiling, always had a smile on his face.

In terms of the investigation, Fredricka, the FBI really does not have a whole lot to go on, and that is because these border patrol agents, they don't have cameras on their dash in their vehicle, they don't wear body cameras. This area they were in, this culvert area along the interstate about 30 miles from the Mexican border, it was essentially in the middle of nowhere, about 12 miles from the nearest town of any significant size. It was pitch dark. It was at night time. And the only real witness that they know for sure witnessed at least part of this is the other agent who survived this. And we are told by his union representative Lee Smith who met with him yesterday evening that he doesn't remember anything. He says he remembers getting into work, and beyond that, nothing. So you can imagine how difficult it is for the FBI to actually make headway in this investigation, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: Scott McLean, thank you so much in El Paso.

Straight ahead, Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore firing back against his accusers and his Democratic opponent. What he is saying now.


[14:22:28] WHITFIELD: Monday is voter registration deadline in Alabama, and the upcoming special election could see a Democrat flip a Senate seat in a deep red state. Republican candidate Roy Moore is fighting back against allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment in a new ad. Kaylee Hartung has been following this race very closely. She's joining me now. So Kaylee, Roy Moore hitting back with ads.

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Deny, deny, deny -- that has been Roy Moore's game plan ever since "The Washington Post" first broke this story a little more than two weeks ago. He's pitting his word against the word of the nine women who accused him of varying degrees of sexual misconduct. In this new ad, he leans on his resume, he appeals to the Republican base, and says straight up the allegations against him are false. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Five state campaigns, 40 years of honorable service. Roy Moore has been intensely scrutinized and not a hint of scandal. But four weeks before the election, false allegations skewed by liberal elites and the Republican establishment to protect their big government trough. But we know a vote for Roy Moore means conservative judges, tax cuts, and rebuilding the military.

Roy Moore, right choice.


HARTUNG: Doug Jones also out with a new ad this past week. This is a guy who said he was going to stay out of the spotlight. He was letting the accusations against Moore speak for themselves. But in his new ad, he jumps into the fray, naming each of those nine accusers and going on the offensive.

WHITFIELD: All right, it is a powerful race upcoming just two weeks or so away, special election. Thanks so much. Appreciate it, Kaylee.

That is going to do it for me this Saturday in the CNN Newsroom. Thanks so much for joining us. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Amanpour is next. But first, when you think about online shopping, mattresses may not be the first thing that comes to mind. In today's "Fresh Money" segment, a look at how Casper founders built a cult like following with a mattress in a box.


PHILIP KRIM, CO-FOUNDER, CASPER: The conversation between the five co-founders started around sleep. And when we looked at the way people were buying mattresses and it was still a very antiquated experience where go to the store every corner, you walk in in your street clothes, you're expected to lay on a mattress under fluorescent lights and then know how you'll sleep, it just seemed very perverse to us. And so we said how can we do it better and differently? And that's where we came up with the idea of letting people try it in their home and actually sleeping on the product before they were committed to it.

[14:25:03] We made the delivery experience seamless and easy and around your schedule, and we built the business directly to our consumers so we could to tell them what they need to know about buying a mattress. People thought we were crazy. How can you make a mattress brand cool? How could you create a single mattress that creates universal comfort and a great night's sleep? So there were a lot of point that we got aggressively ridiculed about, and we were told no when we were raising money for the idea by dozens and dozens and dozens of folks.

We never thought so many people would see what we were doing and follow us, but they have.