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Trump’s Allies Are Using Harry Potter to Dismantle the Deep State

It’s come to this.

Left, by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg; Right, from Warner Bros/Everett Collection.

Like virtually all of his Republican brethren, Mick Mulvaney has been decrying the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau since the day it came into existence, even going so far as to co-sponsor legislation in 2015 to scrap the agency entirely. Born out of Dodd-Frank, the bureau is designed to protect consumers from abuses in the financial sector, with jurisdiction over banks, credit unions, payday lenders, debt collectors, and other financial companies. But in conservatives’ minds, the C.F.P.B. is a “dictator” from whom companies need protection. So it came as a surprise to exactly no one that, following a brief legal scuffle, the Donald Trump-appointed interim director ordered a 30-day freeze on hiring and rule-making, and announced that the C.F.P.B. would be run differently under him than it was under the Barack Obama-appointed Richard Cordray, but declined to say just how.

Operating under the (fairly well-founded) assumption that despite Mulvaney’s claims that he will not “blow up” the agency he has taken over, he is poised to do just that, a number of C.F.P.B. staffers have reportedly taken up arms against him:

Some employees, including a few of the bureau’s top officials, have welcomed their new leader. Others, pointing to Mr. Mulvaney’s earlier hostility toward the agency and its mission, are quietly resisting. One small group calls itself “Dumbledore’s Army,” according to two of the people who were familiar with their discussions. The name is a reference to a secret resistance force in the Harry Potter books. An atmosphere of intense anxiety has taken hold, several employees said. In some cases, conversations between staff that used to take place by phone or text now happen almost exclusively in person or through encrypted messaging apps.

Unfortunately, whatever good the group had hoped to do by adopting the name of a renegade group of kid wizards may have been forestalled. Shortly after The New York Times published its story on the insurgency, a conservative group called the Cause of Action Institute filed a FOIA request with the C.F.P.B. requesting all communications containing the words “Dumbledore,” “Dumbledore’s Army,” “Snape,” “Voldemort,” “He-who-shall-not-be-named,” “encrypted message,” or “encrypted messaging.” In its request, the group wrote that it is “concerned that these individuals may be using the encrypted messaging applications to avoid transparency laws in an effort to conceal their communications from internal and external oversight.”

On the one hand, the tactics of “Dumbledore’s Army” may not have been the best way to go about things, considering they blatantly flout the ruling of a federal court, which found that the president had the legal authority to appoint Mulvaney to the top spot. They also have the potential to backfire spectacularly, lending credibility to Mulvaney’s takeover and reaffirming the right-wing fear that the “deep state” operates with impunity. On the other, it’s not clear that staffers would have been able to continue the work they had been doing pre-Mulvaney, considering that on day one, in addition to instituting the hiring and rule-making freeze, he briefly stopped payments to a number of victims of financial crimes and ordered a review of all active lawsuits and investigations, suggesting that some could be abandoned.

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