President Donald Trump has faced widespread criticism this week in the wake of a riot on Capitol Hill perpetrated by his supporters that left five dead.
As a result, several members of his administration have announced their plans to leave — including U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.
“The honor of a lifetime”
According to CNBC, Chao, who is married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), made the announcement in a statement she shared via a tweet on Thursday.
It has been the honor of a lifetime to serve the U.S. Department of Transportation. pic.twitter.com/rFxPsBoh6t
— Sec. Elaine Chao (@SecElaineChao) January 7, 2021
Chao reportedly joins a growing list of departures confirmed by various officials in Trump’s inner circle this week, including White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Matthews, First Lady Melania Trump’s Chief of Staff Stephanie Grisham, special envoy to Northern Ireland Mick Mulvaney, and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.
Chao’s decision was among the more surprising, however, given her apparently steadfast support for the president prior to Wednesday’s events. Those who have included a public statement with their resignation typically placed some share of the blame for the siege of the U.S. Capitol building on the president’s election-related rhetoric.
In her announcement, Chao said: “Yesterday, our country experienced a traumatic and entirely avoidable event as supporters of the President stormed the capitol building following a rally he addressed. 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.”
“No mistaking the impact”
Similarly, DeVos accused the president of inciting the riot, at least to some extent, through his previous remarks.
“There is no mistaking the impact your rhetoric had on the situation, and it is the inflection point for me,” she wrote, according to HuffPost.
As with others in the administration who have confirmed their intentions to step down in recent days, however, DeVos attempted to separate Trump’s accomplishments over the past four years from the events of this week.
“We should be highlighting and celebrating your Administration’s many accomplishments on behalf of the American people,” she said. “Instead, we are left to clean up the mess caused by violent protestors overrunning the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to undermine the people’s business.”
Of course, Trump’s own comments during and after the riot made it clear that he does not support the violence and destruction ostensibly caused in furtherance of his grievances. In a video statement on Thursday, he promised an “orderly transition” to the administration of President-elect Joe Biden later this month, adding that the “demonstrators who infiltrated the Capitol have defiled the seat of American democracy,” according to Breitbart.