Allahpundit has convincingly made the case that the attempt to install Leandra English as head of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau was a brazenly political act. The outgoing head of the agency, Richard Cordray, wanted to kick off his run for governor of Ohio by starting a public feud with President Trump. He appointed English and Trump appointed Mick Mulvaney, setting up a showdown.
Sunday, English filed a lawsuit trying to claim her place as head of the agency. There is every reason to think she has the losing hand in this battle, legally speaking. Indeed, she has already lost round 1, but the question remains: Who is paying to fund this political stunt? Tuesday, English’s lawyer, Deepak Gupta, was asked that question and struggled with his answer.
I’m going to transcribe Gupta’s answer verbatim because it really is a spectacular face plant. Again, the question is “Who is paying your bill?” Gupta replied, “Well, uh, it’s, uh, it’s not, um, uh Miss, uh, English, uh-um, there are ethics lawyers we’ve consulted and we have a structure set up that complies with ethics rules.”
Pressed on why he can’t reveal who is paying for the lawsuit, Gupta replies, “Well, there’s an ethics structure that’s set up.” As Gupta keeps talking, eventually, one of the CNBC hosts interjects, “I don’t think he knows. Do you know who is paying for it Deepak?”
Gupta replies, “I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to be talking about that on TV right now. I think that’s something that should be addressed by ethics lawyers who have studied this and are setting up a structure.”
The hosts refused to let it go and again asked if Gupta is working for free and when the funders of the lawsuit can be revealed. Gupta replied, “I’m happy to talk to you about the lawsuit itself and the legal issues, that’s what I’ve come on to talk to you about.” He added, “Not interested in getting into some sort of trap where you’re asking me to talk about, um, uh, government ethics issues where I’m not an expert on government ethics law.”
That’s a mighty amount of hand-waving over a pretty simple question: Who is paying your bill? No one is asking Gupta for a legal justification for whatever set up was made behind the scenes. All that’s needed here is the name of a person or organization.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth Warren and Nancy Pelosi are busy making a public case for English rather than waiting for the court to settle this:
— Nancy Pelosi (@NancyPelosi) November 29, 2017
This is the sort of battle you sometimes see in banana republics where two opposing sides fight for control over the same lever of power. Legally, Trump is going to win this battle. The fact that the country’s leading Democrats are trying to win this fight with politicized public appeals (like the one above) is a worrisome development.
Remember just over a year ago when Trump’s refusal to promise he would respect the results of the election was treated as a serious threat to the future of American democracy? Isn’t this a step in the same direction from Democrats? They are playing with fire here and I suspect if the shoe were on the other foot and Republicans were trying something like this, the opinion pages would be bursting with hot-takes calling it a dangerous violation of established norms. As it stands, the media reaction to this entire dubious effort seems fairly muted so far.