U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced she is resigning from Donald Trump’s cabinet, becoming the highest ranking administration official to leave after supporters of the president breached the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday in protest of his election loss.
“Yesterday, our country experienced a traumatic and entirely avoidable event as supporters of the president stormed the Capitol building following a rally he addressed,” Chao said in astatement on Twitter. “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.”
Chao said she is resigning as of Jan. 11 and will help her announced successor, former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, the pick of President-elect Joe Biden to lead the department.
Chao is the first cabinet secretary to resign in the wake of Wednesday’s protests at the U.S. Capitol. She joins a growing list of Trump administration officials who have stepped down with two weeks before the end of Trump’s term, including former White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, who left his post as special envoy to Northern Ireland.
“I quit because it is the only thing I could do — officially — to express my disapproval of what happened yesterday,” Mulvaney told Bloomberg News Thursday.
Matt Pottinger, Trump’s deputy national security adviser, resigned over the episode, as did Ryan Tully, the senior director for European and Russian affairs on the National Security Council. Tyler Goodspeed, acting head of the Council of Economic Advisers, has also stepped down, a person familiar with the matter said.
Several other White House officials are weighing departures after witnessing the president’s role in and response to a violent mob of his supporters storming the Capitol and disrupting the counting of Electoral College votes.
Others say they will serve until Biden’s inauguration. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and his senior staff at the agency have agreed they will remain in their jobs to ensure an orderly transition amid the pandemic-induced economic crisis, according to a person familiar with the matter.
“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,” Mulvaney told CNBC Thursday.
Congress was in the middle of arguing over objections to the electoral vote count from Arizona, an effort driven by a group of Republicans and encouraged by Trump, when lawmakers were forced to abruptly suspend the proceedings. Eventually they were hustled out of the House and Senate chambers by security as protesters surged into the Capitol, breaking windows and doors.
Stands by Her Man
Chao has been one of the longest serving Trump cabinet secretaries. She stood by Trump’s side through other controversies, such as when he said after a deadly rally by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, that there were “very fine people on both sides.”
Chao has moved to loosen auto gas mileage standards, reduce consumer protections for airline passengers and to halt or relax numerous safety rules that had been under development in the prior administration.
She has also been one of the most media-shy transportation secretaries in modern history. Unlike her predecessors, her staff routinely ushered her past reporters so she didn’t have to take questions.
Chao, 67, who is married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said that day: “I stand by my man — both of them.”
Chao was appointed by Trump in 2017. She previously led the Labor Department for the full eight years President George W. Bush was in office.
Her resignation was reported earlier by the Washington Post.
She formerly was deputy secretary of transportation and chairwoman of theFederal Maritime Commission.
Chao has also been chief executive officer ofUnited Way of America and director of the Peace Corps. She worked as vice president of syndications at Bank of America Capital Markets Group and as a banker withCiticorp in New York.
Chao was the 18th transportation secretary in U.S. history, and the third woman to hold the post following Elizabeth Dole, who served under President Ronald Reagan, and Mary Peters, who served under George W. Bush.
— With assistance by Alan Levin
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