More resignations after Capitol chaos

David Shepardson and Matt Spetalnick
·3-min read

US Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos have resigned, joining a growing list of officials quitting President Donald Trump's administration in protest at the storming of the US Capitol by his supporters.

They were followed on Thursday by at least five senior directors at the White House National Security Council, sources said.

Chao, the wife of Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, said in an email to staff on Thursday that the mob attack "has deeply troubled me in a way that I simply cannot set aside". She said her resignation will take effect on Monday.

In a letter to Trump, DeVos said the attack on the Capitol was unconscionable. "There is no mistaking the impact your rhetoric had on the situation, and it is the inflection point for me," she wrote, adding her resignation would be effective Friday.

With less than two weeks left of Trump's presidency, many aides were already heading for the door, but the sudden exodus suggested revulsion among some over his encouragement of supporters who brought chaos to the Capitol on Wednesday in an ultimately futile bid to prevent formal certification of Democrat Joe Biden's election victory.

Deputy national security adviser Matt Pottinger, a leading aide on Trump's China policy, quit abruptly on Wednesday, a senior administration official said.

He was followed on Thursday by at least five other senior directors within national security.

Sources said the departures included: Ryan Tully (European and Russian affairs); Erin Walsh (African affairs); Mark Vandroff (defence policy); Anthony Rugierro (weapons of mass destruction); and Rob Greenway (Middle Eastern and North African affairs).

Greenway's departure had already been in the works, one of the sources said.

Tyler Goodspeed, acting chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, also stepped down, a source familiar with the situation said.

Trump's pledge on Thursday of an "orderly transition" on January 20 was partly intended to head off further resignations.

Chao, a labour secretary and deputy transportation secretary under previous Republican presidents, has led the department for four years.

Chao made the announcement a day after her husband McConnell condemned the violence and the effort by some Republican lawmakers to block certification of Biden's victory.

Mick Mulvaney, a former White House chief of staff, resigned as special envoy to Northern Ireland.

John Costello, deputy assistant secretary at the Commerce Department, announced his departure in a blistering tweet, writing, "yesterday's events were an unprecedented attack on the very core of our democracy - incited by a sitting president".

Trump has increasingly isolated himself inside the White House, relying on a small group of diehard loyalists and lashing out at those who dare to cross him.

An administration official insisted that "national security officials who are loyal to their oath to the Constitution will be standing watch until Inauguration Day and will then turn over power to the duly elected new president".

First lady Melania Trump's chief of staff, Stephanie Grisham, also resigned on Wednesday, while two sources told Reuters that White House social secretary Rickie Niceta, and deputy press secretary Sarah Matthews also quit.