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Mulvaney calls for unity at consumer bureau amid racial controversy

Mulvaney calls for unity at consumer bureau amid racial controversy
© Greg Nash

The acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) issued a call for unity to agency employees Thursday amid a backlash over racially charged writings by a top official he appointed.

Acting CFPB Director Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyOn The Money: Mnuchin pulls out of Saudi summit | Consumer bureau to probe controversial blog posts on race | Harris proposes new middle-class tax credit Consumer bureau to probe top Trump official's past racial comments On The Money: Deficit hits six-year high of 9 billion | Yellen says Trump attacks threaten Fed | Affordable housing set for spotlight in 2020 race MORE urged agency staffers to treat each other with “professionalism, respect and civility,” in an internal Thursday email obtained by The Hill, asking the consumer watchdog agency to come together around its mission.

“We do our work together, and we are either going to choose to do it very well, or we won’t,” Mulvaney wrote. “That is a choice we make together. Our focus must always remain on doing our jobs, enforcing the law and working together to do a great job for the American people.”

Mulvaney has faced an internal rebellion inside the CFPB over the emergence of blog posts dismissing hate crimes that were written 14 years ago by Eric Blankenstein, the bureau’s director of supervision, enforcement and fair lending.

Blankenstein, appointed by Mulvaney to oversee CFPB racial discrimination cases, wrote anonymously in 2004 that most reported hate crimes were hoaxes and questioned if using the n-word was inherently racist. The blog posts were discovered by the Washington Post last month, and incited an uproar among CFPB veterans appointed during the Obama administration.

Several senior CFPB officials, Democratic lawmakers and liberal political groups have called on Mulvaney to fire Blankenstein. The acting director said in the Thursday email that he is “not going to let any outside group dictate who works here or how I structure or manage the bureau.”

The email did not mention Blankenstein or the controversy by name, but referred to "recent articles in the media."

Mulvaney wrote Thursday that he would not tolerate racial discrimination within the CFPB and urged employees to file formal complaints about any prejudicial behavior. He also said bureau staffers “can be certain that I value your right to express personal views on your own time” and “the healthy exchange of diverse opinions.

Mulvaney’s message is unlikely to satisfy Blankenstein critics within the agency. Patrice Ficklin, director of the CFPB office of fair lending, has asked Mulvaney to abandon a planned structural change that would give Blankenstein sole authority over lending discrimination cases. 

National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) President Anthony Reardon and CFPB chapter president Gail Wisely have also asked Mulvaney to fire Blankenstein.

Mulvaney has previously shot down requests to scrap the CFPB organizational overhaul. 

“I recognize that this is not the result that some of you may have wanted. But I stand by my decision and will proceed accordingly,” Mulvaney wrote to CFPB employees last week.