Who has resigned from the White House after the Capitol riots?
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos becomes the latest to leave the Trump administration over the President's involvement in inciting the attack on Congress.
Tensions in the White House have been rising in recent days as President Donald Trump’s attempts to contest the election result become increasingly desperate. On Wednesday a Trump-led ‘Stop the Steal’ rally saw hordes of his supporters flood the Capitol and break into both Houses of Congress, disrupting the democratic process.
A day later and five people have now been confirmed dead as a result of the political violence in the Capitol, with over 60 arrests already made. The extraordinary scenes have been condoned by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle with a number of Republicans speaking out against the President and calling for him to be removed from office.
A conciliatory video posted on his Twitter account on Thursday evening represents a first step towards calming the political situation in America, but for some long-term Trump loyalists the damage had already been done. Since the President’s supporters stormed the Capitol on Wednesday, nine members of his administration have handed in their resignations.
Cabinet members and a former chief of staff leave the White House
On Thursday morning Elaine Chao, Trump’s transport secretary, announced via Twitter that she would be resigning her post. Chao became the first cabinet member to leave the White House over the events in the Capitol and her willingness to do so, so close to the end of Trump’s term, show the strength of feeling.
She is married to former Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has also publically opposed Trump in recent days by urging Congress to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. In her statement she wrote, “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.”
On Thursday evening Education Secretary Betsy DeVos became the second member of Trump’s cabinet to resign over the violence in the Capitol. She had been in her role since 2017 when she was one of Trump’s most controversial picks for cabinet. The Michigan billionaire said in her letter: “There is no mistaking the impact your rhetoric had on the situation, and it is the inflection point for me.”
Another key figure to have left the White House is Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s former acting chief of staff who told a CNBC interview on Thursday: “I can’t do it. I can’t stay”. Mulvaney was serving as special envoy to Northern Ireland when he informed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of his decision, and adds that many others are considering a similar stand.
He told CNBC: “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.”
Security officials at “breaking point” of Capitol Hill violence
Trump’s speech at the White House on Wednesday morning seemed to lead directly to the violence seen in the Capitol and two members of the administration’s security team resigned within 24 hours. The first was John Costello, a senior cybersecurity official who served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Intelligence and Security. He described Trump’s involvement in the attack on Congress as a “breaking point”, when telling associates of his resignation.
A more senior name to exit the Trump administration was Matthew Pottinger, who had been the President’s deputy national security adviser since 2019. He grew to prominence in the Trump White House as an advisor during the meeting with President Xi of China in 2017, but he too has decided he must step aside.
Long-term Trump loyalists resign after violence in the Capitol
A number of other less senior White House officials were also pushed to action by the events on Wednesday and felt that they could not remain in their posts for the final two weeks of the Trump administration. Tyler Goodspeed served as acting chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisors but submitted his resignation to Chief of Staff Mark Meadow on Thursday. Speaking later that day, he said: “The events of yesterday made my position no longer tenable.”
Two members of First Lady Melania Trump’s White House staff have also left the administration over the President’s incitement of violence. The most notable of these was Stephanie Grisham, the current chief of staff to the First Lady who had been a member of the 2016 Trump election campaign. She was formerly the White House press secretary and was one of the longest-serving aides in the Trump administration.
The second of Melania Trump’s staff to leave was Rickie Niceta, who had been the First Lady’s social secretary since 2017 and was involved in planning President Trump's inauguration that year. Finally, former deputy press secretary in the Trump White House Sarah Matthews announced that she was resigning on Wednesday, saying that she was “deeply disturbed by what I saw today.”