Transportation Secretary Chao resigns in protest
Chao would become the first Cabinet official, and the highest-ranking member of the administration, to resign in the wake of Trump’s incendiary rally and its violent aftermath on Wednesday.
“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 wrote in a letter to Transportation Department staff, obtained by The Hill. “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.”
Her exit is a sharp rebuke of a president who has alienated even some of his closest supporters with his increasingly unhinged rhetoric. Chao has served as Transportation secretary since Trump’s inauguration. She served as Labor secretary for eight years under President George W. Bush.
Chao is married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who spent much of Wednesday locked in an undisclosed and secure location under armed guard as Trump-backing rioters marauded through the Capitol.
In her letter to employees, Chao said she would resign effective Monday. She said her team would continue assisting President-elect Joe Biden’s Transportation secretary-designate, former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, with the transition.
Chao’s exit will absolve her of uncomfortable questions over whether she would join any effort to remove President Trump from office two weeks before his term expires by invoking the 25th Amendment, which allows the majority of the Cabinet to replace a president with the vice president.
Her departure will anger those who wanted the Cabinet to take the historic step of replacing Trump with Vice President Pence. But Chao’s resignation is not effective until Monday, which could give Cabinet members time to organize their vote.