WASHINGTON: Two members of Donald Trump’s cabinet resigned with days left in the administration in protest over the storming of the Capitol by a mob of the president’s supporters.
The education secretary and transportation secretary – the only two women in Trump’s inner cabinet – both said they could no longer remain in office after the violent rampage on a ceremonial session of Congress that certified President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.
“That behavior was unconscionable for our country. There is no mistaking the impact your rhetoric had on the situation, and it is the inflection point for me,” said Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, a conservative stalwart who had served throughout the administration.
“Impressionable children are watching all this, and they are learning from us,” she said in a letter to Trump. “They must know from us that America is greater than what transpired yesterday.”
Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who is married to Republican Senate majority Leader Mitch McConnell, earlier said it was “a traumatic and entirely avoidable event as supporters of the president stormed the Capitol building following a rally he addressed.”
“It has deeply troubled me in a way I simply cannot set aside,” she added. Several Democratic lawmakers dismissed her resignation as posturing.
Democrats said that the secretaries should have instead worked to remove Trump from power under the Constitution’s 25th Amendment, which allows a majority of the cabinet to vote to remove the chief executive if he is deemed unfit to serve.
Former White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney — who had predicted Trump would give up power graciously — said he was quitting his diplomatic position as US envoy for Northern Ireland.
“I can’t stay here, not after yesterday. You can’t look at that yesterday and think I want to be a part of that in any way, shape or form,” Mulvaney told media. “Those who choose to stay, and I have talked with some of them, are choosing to stay because they’re worried the president might put someone worse in,” he said.
Trump in a video later finally acknowledged that he would be leaving office on January 20 and condemned the violence but did not congratulate Biden. Deputy national security adviser Matt Pottinger, a key architect of Trump’s hawkish stance on China, resigned hours after the unprecedented scenes at the Capitol.
Another departure was Stephanie Grisham, a former White House press secretary now working as a spokeswoman for First Lady Melania Trump. r In another sign of upheaval, Trump withdrew his nomination of Chad Wolf for the permanent job at the head of the Department of Homeland Security, where he is now acting chief.
This came just after Wolf said he found the action by Trump’s supporters in the halls of Congress “sickening” and urged the president to “strongly condemn” the violence. The outrage across Washington is feeding growing speculation that more senior Trump administration figures may be leaving.
Particular focus has been put on Robert O’Brien, who holds the key post of national security advisor. O’Brien raised eyebrows during the siege of the Capitol by saying he had spoken with Pence and was “proud to serve with him,” not mentioning Trump.