Cabinet Secretaries Condemn Violent Protests at U.S. Capitol
Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said Thursday she would leave office on January 11.
In the day since violent protesters breached the U.S. Capitol as lawmakers were in the process of certifying the results of the presidential election, many Trump administration officials, including a number of Cabinet secretaries, have condemned the violence and a few officials have resigned.
Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen said on Wednesday the mob assault was “an intolerable attack on a fundamental institution of our democracy.” In another statement early on Thursday, he said the Justice Department “is committed to ensuring that those responsible for this attack on our government and the rule of law face the full consequences of their actions.” He said the department would bring charges against some of the perpetrators on Thursday and more in the days and weeks to come.
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said on Thursday morning what happened was “tragic and sickening … We now see some supporters of the president using violence as a means to achieve political ends. This is unacceptable.” He said he would remain in his position “to ensure the department’s focus remains on the serious threats facing our country and an orderly transition to President-elect Biden’s DHS team.”
Shortly after Wolf’s statement, the White House announced that the president had withdrawn Wolf’s nomination to hold the position in a permanent capacity.
Other Cabinet Secretaries issued statements or Twitter condemning the violence, including acting Defense Department Secretary Chris Miller; Health and Human Services Department Secretary Alex Azar; Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia; Commerce Secretary Wilber Ross; Education Department Secretary Betsy DeVos; House and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson; Interior Secretary David Bernhardt; Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; and Treasury Department Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said he was “completely disgusted” by the events in an internal email to staff obtained by Government Executive. Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette sent a similar email to staff, Politico reported.
“I think inciting people to not have a peaceful transition of power was not the right thing to do,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue told NBC News, in regards to the president. “And I'm disappointed in that.”
Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who is married to Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., sent a memo to department staff announcing her resignation, saying Wednesday’s events left her “deeply troubled in a way I cannot set aside.” Her resignation will take effect on Monday, and she pledged her department “will help my announced successor Mayor Pete Buttigieg with taking on the responsibility.”
A number of Cabinet secretaries stressed their commitment to a smooth transition to the Biden administration. HHS remains “committed to a peaceful and orderly transition of power over the next 13 days,” Azar said, and DeVos said, “the peaceful transfer of power is what separates American representative democracy from banana republics,” although she previously had urged Education Department employees to “resist” implementing policies promoted by the Biden team.
With less than two weeks to go before Trump’s term is up, a number of other officials decided to resign, including: Stephanie Grisham, chief-of-staff for the first lady; Anna Cristina “Rickie” Niceta, White House social secretary; Matt Pottinger, deputy national security adviser; Mick Mulvaney, special U.S. envoy to Northern Ireland who was previously Trump’s chief-of-staff; Sarah Matthews, deputy White House press secretary; Ryan Tully, Trump’s top advisor on Russia, John Costello, deputy assistant secretary for intelligence and security at the Commerce Department; and Tyler Goodspeed, acting chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers according to multiple news outlets. National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien and Deputy Chief of Staff Chris Liddell are reportedly considering stepping down as well.
On Thursday afternoon, Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., released a resolution she plans to introduce to impeach Trump. So far, over 100 Democratic lawmakers (including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.) and one Republican have called for Trump’s impeachment, again, or for the Cabinet to use the 25th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to remove Trump from office. Some Cabinet officials reportedly have discussed this, as CBS News first reported Wednesday night.
Miller and Chief Pentagon Spokesman Jonathan Hoffman collectively released three statements on Wednesday about the National Guard deployments to the Capitol to maintain security through the transition.
Some former top Trump administration officials have spoken out as well.
Former Attorney General William Barr told The Associated Press on Thursday that Trump’s conduct was a “betrayal of his office and supporters” and that “orchestrating a mob to pressure Congress is inexcusable.”
Former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis directly blamed Trump for the violence in a statement to ABC News.
Chris Krebs, who Trump fired as director of Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency after he asserted that the 2020 elections were secure and accurate, tweeted that “The president [and] his campaign/lawyers/supporters fanned the flames for their own selfish reasons culminating with today's objections followed by his video message. “WHAT DID THEY THINK WOULD HAPPEN? They own this.”
He also tweeted that Cabinet officials remaining in the administration equals “complicity” with what happened. “Other officials can quit or ride it out,” he said. “My take? Start with [the 25th amendment] - we are in extraordinary times.”