More White House officials are expected to resign over the coming days

By Virginia Chamlee
Updated January 11, 2021 06:45 PM
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A growing list of Trump administration aides and officials have resigned from their posts in the wake of a violent and deadly riot incited by Donald Trump on Wednesday.

With less than two weeks left in his presidency, and after years of Trump's coddling of fringe conspiracy groups and white supremacists, the president's response to the events on Wednesday was a bridge too far for a number of officials.

The Wednesday riots — which led to the deaths of four people, the evacuation of the entire U.S Congress and the looting of the United States Capitol — began with a pro-Trump rally (which included an appearance by the president himself) to coincide with the ratification of the electoral college votes.

During his speech, Trump instructed his supporters to march over to the building and "be strong," saying, "you'll never take back our country with weakness."

Within hours, a violent mob of his supporters breaching the U.S. Capitol building, carrying Trump-branded flags as they stormed through offices, yelling "Stop the Steal," a reference to the president's unfounded conspiracy theory that an election he lost was somehow stolen from him.

More than three hours after the Capitol was breached, Trump finally called for his supporters to leave the building. But he continued to flatter them, telling those rioting in the Capitol that he "loved" them and that they were "very special."

That message, along with the president's reported erratic behavior throughout the day, spurred a wave of resignations, with various news outlets reporting that more are likely forthcoming.

Here's a list of all the White House resignations in the wake of the riots so far.

Credit: Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images

Chad Wolf

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Wolf said in a letter to the department on Jan. 11 that he would step down, days after criticizing Trump over the "tragic and sickening" riot at the U.S. Capitol.

"We now see some supporters of the President using violence as a means to achieve political ends. This is unacceptable," Wolf said in a statement condemning Trump for inciting the Capitol riot. "These violent actions are unconscionable."

In his Jan. 7 statement, Wolf said, "I will remain in my position until the end of the Administration to ensure the Department's focus remains on the serious threats facing our country and an orderly transition to President-elect Biden's DHS team."

But in this Jan. 11 resignation letter, he wrote, "I am saddened to take this step, as it was my intention to serve the Department until the end of this Administration," according to CNN. "Unfortunately, this action is warranted by recent events, including the ongoing and meritless court rulings regarding the validity of my authority as Acting Secretary. These events and concerns increasingly serve to divert attention and resources away from the important work of the Department in this critical time of a transition of power."

Pete Gaynor, who ran the Federal Emergency Management Agency, will replace Wolf, according to the Associated Press.

In addition, Wolf's resignation was made public a day before Trump is scheduled to visit the U.S.-Mexico border wall.

Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty

Elaine Chao

Transportation Secretary Chao was the first Cabinet secretary to resign after Wednesday's events, announcing her exit in an email to DOT colleagues Thursday.

"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," Chao wrote.

Chao is married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who on Wednesday condemned the Capitol mob as a "failed insurrection."

Chao's resignation faced criticism from Democrats including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who argued she should remain in the cabinet in order to invoke the 25th Amendment and remove Trump from office.

Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty

Mick Mulvaney

The former White House chief of staff, who had been working as a special envoy to Northern Ireland, told CNBC on Thursday morning that he had resigned in protest.

"I called Mike Pompeo last night to let him know that I would be resigning from that. I can't do it. I can't stay," Mulvaney said, noting that his resignation wouldn't make a big impact, but was important nonetheless.

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"It's a nothing thing. It doesn't affect the outcome, it doesn't affect the transition, but it's what I've got, right?" Mulvaney said. "And it's a position I really enjoy doing. But you can't do it."

Mulvaney continued that he expects others to leave the White House in the coming days.

"I wouldn't be surprised to see more of my friends resign over the next 24-58 hours. It'd be completely understandable if they did," Mulvaney told CNBC. "Those who choose to stay are choosing to stay because they are concerned that the president might put someone in to replace them that might take things even worse."

He continued: "I'm not condemning those who choose to stay, but I can't stay here. Not after yesterday. You can't look at that yesterday and think 'I want to be part of that' in any way, shape, or form. "

Stephanie Grisham
| Credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Stephanie Grisham

Grisham, the former chief of staff to First Lady Melania Trump, was the first to tender her resignation publicly, writing on Twitter that it had been "an honor" to serve the country but that she was "signing off" for now.

Credit: Mark Schiefelbein - Pool/Getty

Matt Pottinger

The deputy national security adviser resigned Wednesday, multiple outlets reported. Bloomberg reporter Jennifer Jacobs shared on Twitter that Pottinger had intended to resign on Election Day, but had stayed at the request of National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien.

Jacobs added that O'Brien was expected to stay for the remaining two weeks.

Sarah Matthews

The deputy White House press secretary was one of the few to specifically attribute their exit to the riots, issuing a statement on Wednesday.

"I was honored to serve in the Trump administration and proud of the policies we enacted. As someone who worked in the halls of Congress I was deeply disturbed by what I saw today," Matthews said in a statement, as reported by The Hill. "I'll be stepping down from my role, effective immediately. Our nation needs a peaceful transfer of power."

Anna Cristina "Rickie" Niceta

The White House social secretary resigned from her role effective immediately on Wednesday, according to reporters from both ABC and CBS News.

Ryan Tully

Bloomberg and Politico reported Thursday that Tully, the National Security Council's Senior Director for European and Russian Affairs, had left his post on Wednesday.

Tyler Goodspeed

The acting chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers resigned on Thursday, telling a New York Times reporter: "The events of yesterday made my position no longer tenable."

John Costello

The Commerce Department's deputy assistant secretary for intelligence and security resigned Thursday morning, issuing a statement on Twitter that Trump had "incited" the riot.

"The President has long disregarded and diminished the rule of law and the constitution," Costello's statement read. "Yesterday, that culminated in violent sedition against the U.S. Congress for the purposes of overturning a legally recognized and valid election. During my time in office, I strove to further cybersecurity and national security on behalf of the American people. I am sorry to leave that work unfinished, but yesterday's events leave me no choice."

Betsy DeVos

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was the second cabinet member to resign.

"We should be highlighting and celebrating your administration's many accomplishments on behalf of the American people. Instead, we are left to clean up the mess caused by violent protesters overrunning the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to undermine the people's business," she said in a letter to Trump, per the New York Times.

"That behavior was unconscionable for our country," she continued. "There is no mistaking the impact your rhetoric had on the situation, and it is the inflection point for me."

Like Chao, DeVos was criticized for resigning rather than staying on to invoke the 25th Amendment.

"Betsy DeVos has never done her job to help America's students. It doesn't surprise me one bit that she'd rather quit than do her job to help invoke the 25th Amendment," Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) wrote on Twitter.