Several White House officials and administration officials are abruptly resigning after supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol, at Trump’s direction, in an effort to stop lawmakers from certifying President-elect Joe Biden’s election win.
Their resignations come two weeks before they wouldn’t have a job anyway, since Biden will bring in his own team after Jan 20. So even if it’s in earnest, and not just to rehabilitate their images before trying to get a new job, their principled stand against Trump inciting violence and undermining democracy doesn’t mean much. They’ve stood by him as he has done this for years.
Stephanie Grisham, chief of staff to Melania Trump and former White House press secretary, announced Wednesday that she’s out. She didn’t bring up the day’s events but said she was proud to be part of the first lady’s “mission to help children everywhere & proud of the many accomplishments of this Administration.”
Grisham didn’t mention that she stayed in her job when Trump was separating children from their families at the border and then lost track of the parents of more than 540 children they took from them.
Mick Mulvaney, former White House chief of staff and current special envoy to Northern Ireland, said Thursday that he is resigning from his diplomatic post.
“I can’t stay here. Not after yesterday,” said Mulvaney, who has served in the Trump administration since February 2017 — the same year Trump blamed “many sides” for the deadly white supremacist clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia, and defended white nationalists as “some very fine people.”
Mulvaney expects other officials to follow suit, he told CNBC.
Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced her resignation on Thursday.
“Yesterday, our country experienced a traumatic and entirely avoidable event as supporters of the President stormed the Capitol building following a rally he addressed,” Chao said in a statement. “As I’m sure is the case with many of you, it has deeply troubled me in a way that I simply cannot set aside.”
Like Mulvaney, Chao, who is married to Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), has served in Trump’s administration for his entire presidency.
That means she stayed in her job through 2017, when Trump repeatedly refused to condemn the white nationalist groups organizing in Charlottesville, Virginia, and repeatedly referred to the press as “the enemy of the American people,” which has fueled hostility and violence toward journalists by Trump supporters.
She also stayed in her job through 2018, when Trump began his policy of separating at least 2,800 children from their families at the border, regularly refused to condemn hate groups by name and celebrated Republican Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.) physically assaulting a reporter, saying, “Any guy who can do a body-slam ... he’s my guy.”
She also stayed in her job through 2019, when Trump turned the idea of shooting migrants and asylum-seekers into a punchline, and said a group of Democratic congresswomen of color were “hate-filled extremists” who should “go back” to the “crime-infested places from which they came.” That was after he referred to one of those congresswomen, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), a Muslim, as “ungrateful” and “anti-Semitic,” which led to her receiving death threats.
She also stayed in her job through 2020, when Trump refused to condemn white supremacist agitators and referred to people as “thugs” who were protesting the police killing of George Floyd. Trump also spent the year fueling violence against Asian Americans by using racist names for the coronavirus, calling it the “Chinese flu” and “Chinese virus,” as he tried to blame others for his own failings in containing the deadly virus.
Chao said her last day on the job is Jan. 11, which is nine days before she would have been out of a job anyway.
White House deputy press secretary Sarah Matthews announced her resignation, too. She said in a statement that she was “deeply disturbed” by the violence at the Capitol carried out by Trump supporters but was “honored to serve in the Trump administration and proud of the policies we enacted.”
She didn’t mention Trump’s yearslong record of encouraging hate groups and political violence that preceded Wednesday’s incidents.
White House social secretary Anna Cristina “Rickie” Niceta resigned Wednesday after being in the post since February 2017.
And John Costello, deputy assistant secretary of commerce for intelligence and security, announced his resignation Thursday. He acknowledged that Trump has been damaging the nation’s institutions for years.
“The President has long disregarded and diminished the rule of law and the constitution,” Costello said in a statement. “Yesterday, that culminated in violent sedition against the U.S. Congress for the purposes of overturning a legally recognized and valid election.”
Deputy national security adviser Matt Pottinger resigned Thursday, per Politico, and two other administration officials may follow him out the door: national security adviser Robert O’Brien and deputy chief of staff Chris Liddell.
Ryan Tully, the senior director for European and Russian affairs on the National Security Council, also resigned Thursday, according to Bloomberg.
Assistant attorney general Eric Dreiband announced Thursday that he is stepping down from the department’s civil rights division.
“It has been the honor of a lifetime to serve as Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division,” Dreiband said in a statement, which made no mention of Trump supporters’ siege of the Capitol the day before.
Dreiband has been in his post since Nov. 1, 2018.
Late Thursday, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced her resignation, too, citing the violence at the Capitol as too much for her to bear.
“That behavior was unconscionable for our country,” she wrote in a letter to Trump. “There is no mistaking the impact your rhetoric had on the situation, and it is the inflection point for me.”
Like Chao, DeVos served in Trump’s Cabinet for his entire presidency.
Liza Hearon contributed to this article.