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Architect of Trump’s family separation crisis may soon lead Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Kathy Kraninger has already admitted she is unqualified for the role.

White House Office of Management and Budget official Kathleen Laura Kraninger will become the director of Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection if confirmed by the Senate this week. Democrats are concerned about her past work on Trump's family separation policy and have threatened to stall her confirmation unless she provides more transparency about her role in the matter. (Photo credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)
White House Office of Management and Budget official Kathleen Laura Kraninger will become the director of Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection if confirmed by the Senate this week. Democrats are concerned about her past work on Trump's family separation policy and have threatened to stall her confirmation unless she provides more transparency about her role in the matter. (Photo credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Kathy Kraninger, currently the associate director for general government programs at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), has no background in financial regulation or consumer protection.

However, in Trump administration fashion, she is the nominee to run the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), a position she herself has admitted she is unqualified to hold, and one she may be granted regardless, if the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs votes to confirm her on Thursday.

During a hearing with the committee in July, Kraninger deftly avoided answering any questions related to what she had accomplished at OMB, and was unable to say what her day-to-day operations might be if installed as CFPB head.

“I am trying to get an answer from you, and I just can’t. And this is maddening,” Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) said at one point during the three-hour long hearing.

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Her lack of qualifications aside, Senate Democrats are also concerned about the role Kraninger played in the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy, which led to the separation of nearly 3,000 families at the U.S. southern border earlier this summer.

At OMB, The Intercept notes, Kraninger oversees a $250 million budget across multiple cabinets, including the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ). Associate directors at OMB also play a key role in policy development and coordination between departments.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) asked Kraninger directly about her involvement in the zero-tolerance policy during that same July Senate Banking hearing, but Kraninger refused to offer any details, saying only that the meetings were on the “general topic” of immigration and it would be a “slippery slope” to start discussing internal decisions.

“No, it’s not a slippery slope; you don’t want to characterize because you don’t want to admit that you were part of this,” Warren responded. “…If the Senate votes to give you a big promotion after this, then it is a stain on the senators who do so.

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Warren and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) sent a joint letter to Kraninger earlier in June demanding more information about her role in developing the family separation policy, as well as any internal communications on the matter between herself and DOJ and DHS officials.

“The American people deserve to know what role you have played in developing and implementing this appalling process,” Warren wrote, threatening to fight Kraninger’s nomination unless Kraninger complied with the request.

While it’s unclear to what extent Kraninger knew of the family separation policy before it was implemented, Seth Grossman, a former deputy general counsel and counselor to the secretary at DHS, told Vox in June that a person in Kraninger’s position, “in a typical administration…would be aware and likely involved” in any big multi-departmental policy changes.

What is known is that Kraninger communicated with officials from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in the days leading up to the zero-tolerance policy announcement in April. Public records also show Kraninger’s assistant, Alexandra Marten, met with an executive from GEO Group, a private prison company that operates a collection of ICE-contracted detention facilities, many of which housed immigrant parents separated from their children at the border. Several of those facilities have dark histories abuse, sexual violence, neglect, and mismanagement.

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The Senate Banking Committee will hold a vote on August 23 to determine whether Kraninger will become the next director of the CFPB. Currently, the position is being held in acting capacity by OMB Director Mick Mulvaney, a position he secured last November, following a disputed internal power-grab.