Warren sounds alarm on HUD hiring of embattled CFPB official

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WASHINGTON — Sen. Elizabeth Warren is sounding the alarm on the Department of Housing and Urban Development's hiring of a former Consumer Financial Protection Bureau official with a history of controversial writings.

The Massachusetts Democrat said she is worried that Eric Blankenstein, the CFPB’s former policy director for supervision, enforcement and fair lending, will not be able to work effectively as special counsel in HUD's office of general counsel.

“I am gravely concerned that Mr. Blankenstein has been hired as a Special Counsel in HUD's Office of General Counsel because his troubling views suggest that he will be unable to fulfill core parts of HUD's mission, including fighting housing discrimination and closing the homeownership gap between white borrowers and borrowers of color,” Warren said in a letter to HUD Secretary Ben Carson.

Blankenstein resigned from his position at the CFPB in May. He came under fire last year after it was reported that he used a pen name more than a decade ago to write blog posts saying people who use racial slurs aren’t necessarily racist, and calling most hate crimes “hoaxes.” After the reports, several CFPB colleagues spoke out, saying they were concerned his views had implications for his decision-making.

In her letter to Carson, Warren said Blankenstein's writings disqualify him from working at the CFPB and HUD.

“Just as Mr. Blankenstein's racist views disqualified him from overseeing the enforcement of lending discrimination law at the CFPB, his views also disqualify him from working at HUD — an agency with a mission that includes, ‘build[ing] inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination,' " Warren wrote.

Specifically, she asked Carson to explain how Blankenstein was hired, what hiring processes are in place at HUD and whether any other individuals were evaluated for the role. Warren also asked about the process for vetting officials for senior HUD posts and whether anybody in the Trump administration, the CFPB, or elsewhere recommended Blankenstein for the role at HUD.

In a separate letter to CFPB Inspector General Mark Bialek, Warren asked for an update on his investigation into Blankenstein’s writings.

“I am eager to see the results of your report, given the impact that a person in Mr. Blankenstein's position could have on the availability of mortgage credit to communities of color,” Warren said.

Warren is not the first senator to express anger at Blankenstein's hiring. Sen. Sherrod Brown, the top Democrat on the Senate Banking Committee, told Politico last week that "the Department of Housing should be working to address housing discrimination across the country, not serving as a dumping ground for a disgraced, racist Trump appointee."

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