Update: On Thursday night, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos submitted her resignation, citing President Donald Trump's role in inciting far right violence at the Capitol. "There is no mistaking the impact your rhetoric had on the situation, and it is the inflection point for me," DeVos wrote. The president's longest-serving aide, Hope Hicks, is also expected to resign from her position next week, two people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg. Hicks would reportedly be out of the White House in 48 hours or less upon resignation.
This story was originally published on January 7, 2021.
As people nationwide are still coming to terms with the fact that thousands of Trump supporters on Wednesday attempted to stage a violent coup to overthrow the 2020 presidential election results, Republicans are now playing a game of who can denounce President Donald Trump the fastest. It’s more than a little bit hypocritical, considering the role GOP leaders have played even in just the months since the election to incite the kind of white supremacist mob violence we witnessed this week at the U.S. Capitol. But here we are in 2021.
As the Trump administration nears its end, some Republicans will do anything to salvage their reputation. Trump loyalist, Vice President Mike Pence, announced he would not intervene in the process to certify Joe Biden’s presidency. A top adviser to Trump’s reelection campaign told BuzzFeed News the president “fucked the party.” Outgoing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has for months enabled the president’s lies about the election being stolen, finally dismissed these claims. Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, a long-time ally of the president, said “it’s past time for the president to accept the results of the election, quit misleading the American people, and repudiate mob violence.” Other Republican lawmakers echoed the same, while taking no responsibility for their collective role in enabling the violent attack on the Hill.
Now, as the fractured party attempts to clean up this hot mess, members of Trump’s team have started dropping like flies in an attempt to save face after the president basically encouraged his supporters to overthrow the government on Wednesday. On Thursday, U.S. transportation secretary, Elaine Chao became the first Trump cabinet member to resign. Chao was followed by Trump’s deputy national security adviser, Matt Pottinger; former chief of staff and current special envoy to Northern Ireland, Mick Mulvaney; and top White House adviser on Russia, Ryan Tully.
Other top national security officials are reportedly considering stepping down as well, taking a "brave" stand against the president — just two weeks before they’re all going to be fired from their positions on January 20 anyway.
And yet, despite all the material harm this administration has caused, the assault on the democratic process Wednesday seemed to be the last straw for some officials on Team Trump. Chao resigned following what she called a “traumatic and entirely avoidable event” at the Capitol on Wednesday, which she described as deeply troubling in a statement. Still, she said serving the Trump administration was "the honor of a lifetime."
As for Mulvaney, he told CNBC he just “can’t do it” anymore, and added that some officials choosing to stay are doing so out of fear that the president “might put someone worse in.” Deputy White House press secretary Sarah Matthews announced her resignation, as well, saying she was “deeply disturbed” by far right groups storming the Capitol. Two of First Lady Melania Trump’s aides also resigned Wednesday night, along with the White House social secretary.
It’s certainly not courageous or bold for any Trump officials to wait until the last second to distance themselves from the violence incited by this president. Officials resigning at this point have held cabinet positions in an administration that targeted marginalized communities these last four years, both in the form of policy and through its encouragement of organized violence from far right groups. They were as much responsible for the events leading up to the Capitol insurrection as those scaling the walls and storming in. It's even less brave to wait until you're 13 days from losing your job to say: "you can't fire me, I quit!"