Education Secretary Betsy DeVos resigned on Thursday, becoming the second member of President Donald Trump’s cabinet to step down after he incited a mob of supporters who broke into the US Capitol.
In a letter to Trump, DeVos blamed her departure on his role in fueling the ‘unconscionable’ violent invasion of the Capitol on Wednesday when Congress met to certify Joe Biden’s election victory.
‘We should be highlighting and celebrating your Administration’s many accomplishments on behalf of the American people,’ DeVos wrote.
‘Instead, we are left to clean up the mess caused by violent protestors overrunning the US Capitol in an attempt to undermine the people’s business.
‘That behavior was unconscionable for our country. There is no mistaking the impact your rhetoric had on the situation, and it is an inflection point for me.’
News of her resignation came hours after Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who is married to Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, also stepped down, joining seven other members of the Trump administration to resign in a single day.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos resigned on Thursday, becoming the second member of President Donald Trump’s cabinet to step down after he incited a mob of supporters who broke into the US Capitol
Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who is married to Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (above together), also resigned Thursday
DeVos joined Trump’s cabinet at the start of his presidency in 2017 and quickly emerged as one of his most loyal supporters.
On Wednesday she was the first member of the cabinet to denounce the riots, writing on Twitter: ‘The peaceful transfer of power is what separates American representative democracy from banana republics. The work of the people must go on.’
Chao, who has also been in Trump’s cabinet since 2017, made her resignation announcement in an email to colleagues that was obtained by The Washington Post. She later posted her message to Twitter, in a pinned tweet.
‘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,’ she said.
She is the first Cabinet official to quit.
Chao said she would still assist her successor, former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who President-elect Joe Biden previously named for the role.
Her last day is Monday, January 10, she said.
DeVos joined Trump’s cabinet at the start of his presidency in 2017
Chao became the highest-ranking administration official to resign after President Donald Trump’s lackluster response to the mob that rushed Capitol Hill
WHO’S RESIGNED FROM THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION SINCE MAGA MOBBED CAPITOL HILL?
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos
Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao
Melania Trump’s Chief of Staff Stephanie Grisham
White House Social Secretary Rickie Niceta
Deputy National Security Advisor Matt Pottinger
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Intelligence and Security John Costello
Special Envoy for Northern Ireland and former OMB Director and White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney
The National Security Council’s Senior Director for Europe and Russia Ryan Tully
Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Matthews
Chao’s move comes a day after her husband, McConnell, went on the Senate floor and called out fellow Republicans for emboldening Trump’s farce that Congress was able to overturn the presidential election results.
Before the MAGA mob stampeded in, McConnell warned Senate Republicans they were leading the country down a ‘poisonous path,’ which would put democracy in a ‘death spiral,’ by challenging the Electoral College results.
‘But my colleagues, nothing before us proves illegality anywhere near the massive scale, the massive scale that would have tipped the entire election,’ McConnell argued. ‘Nor can public doubt alone justify a radical break, when the doubt itself was incited without any evidence.’
Chao previously served as President George W. Bush’s Labor secretary.
Her resignation may muddle calls from top Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, for Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment, which would render Trump powerless with just 13 days left of his administration.
A majority of the president’s cabinet would need to support the move.
At her press briefing Thursday, Pelosi seemed miffed that any cabinet leader might resign right now, as they’re in the line of succession.
Chao’s name didn’t specifically come up.
Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger also said Pence should invoke the 25th.
Chao’s resignation follows several other Trump staffers who have stepped down, citing the president’s behavior.
Former White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney has joined the growing list of officials hastily exiting the Trump administration – quitting his diplomatic post in protest of the effort to ‘overtake the government.’
‘I can’t do it,’ said Mulvaney, who called Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, another former House Republican, to convey his views.
Mulvaney, a former House member from South Carolina who left Congress to join Trump’s team, spoke out on CNBC hours after a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol after being egged on to march there by President Trump and his unsupported claims of mass election fraud.
Former Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney has stepped down from his role as a special envoy to Northern Ireland.
WHAT DOES THE 25TH AMENDMENT SAY? CAN TRUMP’S CABINET REALLY TOPPLE HIM?
The 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution deals with presidential authority in the event of death or removal from office, and was ratified in 1967, in the wake of John F Kennedy’s assassination.
What does the 25th Amendment say?
It is in four sections, all dealing with the president leaving office during his or her elected term.
The first section states that the vice president takes over the Oval Office if the president dies or resigns – or is removed – something which the original Constitution did not clearly state.
Presidents of course can be removed by impeachment, a feature of the constitution from the start. They can also be removed through the 25th Amendment – of which more below.
Section II states that if the vice president dies, or resigns – or is fired – both the House and Senate have to confirm a new vice president. Until 1967, presidents could change vice presidents mid-term on their own if they got the vice president to agree to resign – not something that actually happened, but which was possible in principle.
Section III makes clear that a president can temporarily delegate his powers to the vice president, and later reclaim them when he – or she – is capable of serving. This is most often invoked if a president is under the influence of surgical anesthetic for a short period of time.
Section IV is the amendment’s most controversial part: it describes how the president can be removed from office if he is incapacitated and does not leave on his own.
The vice president and ‘a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide’ must write to both the president pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House, saying that ‘the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.’
The term principal officers of the executive departments would normally mean the cabinet secretaries.
So at least eight of the president’s 15 most senior Cabinet members together with the vice president must agree that a president should be removed before any plan can move forward.
Notifying the House Speaker and the Senate president pro tempore is the act that immediately elevates the vice president to an ‘acting president’ role.
The deposed president can contest the claim, giving the leaders of the bloodless coup four days to re-assert their claims to the House and Senate.
Congress then has two days to convene – unless it is already in session – and another 21 days to vote on whether the president is incapable of serving. A tw
o-thirds majority in both houses is required to make that determination.
As soon as there is a vote with a two-thirds majority, the president loses his powers and is removed, and the vice president stops acting and is sworn in as president.
But if 21 days of debate and votes ends without a two-thirds majority, the president gets back his powers.
What could happen to trigger the 25th Amendment?
Vice President Mike Pence and eight of the 15 ‘principal’ Cabinet members would have to agree to notify Congress that President Donald Trump was incapable of running the country.
That group is made up of the Secretary of State, Treasury Secretary, Secretary of Defense, Attorney General, Interior Secretary, Agriculture Secretary, Commerce Secretary, Labor Secretary, Health and Human Services Secretary, Transportation Secretary, Energy Secretary , Education Secretary, Veterans Affairs Secretary and Homeland Security Secretary.
Their formal notification would go to the House Speaker and, in the senate, to the ‘president pro tempore’, the Senate’s most senior member. As soon as the letter is sent, Pence would become ‘acting president.’
Alternatively, Congress could set up its own mechanism to decide if he is fit for office – maybe a commission, or a joint committee. Pence would still have to agree with its conclusion and then write formally to the Speaker and president pro tempore.
Or another possibility is that the pool of ‘principal officers’ is considered to be bigger than the 15 and a majority of that group call Trump incapable.
What if Trump does not agree?
If Trump claims he is capable of holding office, he would write to the House Speaker and the president pro tempore of the Senate within four days, setting up three weeks of intense debate in both houses of Congress.
Trump would be removed from office if both two-thirds majorities in both the House and Senate agreed with Pence and his cabal.
If either of both chambers fell short of that mark, Trump would retain his powers and likely embark on a wholesale housecleaning, firing Pence and replacing disloyal Cabinet members.
Are there any loopholes?
The 25th Amendment allows Congress to appoint its own panel to evaluate the president instead of relying on the Cabinet – the men and women who work most closely with Trump – to decide on a course of action.
It specifies that some ‘other body as Congress may by law provide’ could play that role, but Pence would still need to agree with any finding that the president is incapable of discharging his duties.
That commission could hypothetically include anyone from presidential historians to psychiatrists, entrusted to assess the president’s fitness for office.
Another loophole is that it does not spell out that the Cabinet is needed to agree, but says that the ‘principal officers’ of the departments are needed. That term is undefined in the constitution. In some departments legislation appears to name not just the secretary but deputies and even undersecretaries as ‘principal officers’, so many more people could be called in to the assessment of Trump’s fitness.
But Trump’s cabinet has a swathe of ‘acting’ cabinet officer – and it is unclear if they could therefore take part in removing him.
Could Trump fire Pence if he rebelled?
Yes, in principle. If Trump smelled a whiff of trouble – if Pence and a cabal of Cabinet members, or Pence and a panel assembled by Congress seemed ready to judge him incapacitated – he could dismiss his vice president with the stroke of a pen to stop the process.
But installing a more loyal VP could be problematic since the 25th Amendment includes its own poison pill: Both houses of Congress must vote to approve a new vice president.
That means Trump would find himself up against the same Congress that would vote on his fitness for office, unless the process were to unfold in the weeks before a new Congress.
Theoretically, a Democratic-controlled Congress could make life dramatically more difficult for the president if it came into power in the midst of the constitutional crisis.
One scenario has appeared to stump presidential historians, however: Firing Pence before the process is underway, and then leaving the vice presidency vacant, would give Congress no practical way forward. That would present its own constitutional crisis.
Is there any precedent for this?
No. Only Section III, the voluntary surrender of presidential powers, has ever been used – and only very briefly.
In December 1978, President Jimmy Carter thought about invoking Section III when he was contemplating a surgical procedure to remove hemorrhoids.
Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush both voluntarily relinquished their powers while undergoing procedures under anesthetic.
Section IV has also never been invoked, although there have been claims that Ronald Reagan’s chief of staff Donald Regan told his successor, Howard Baker, in 1987 that he should be prepared to invoke it because Reagan was inattentive and inept.
The PBS documentary ‘American Experience’ recounts how Baker and his team watched Reagan closely for signs of incapacity during their first meeting and decided he was in perfect command of himself.
‘I called Mike Pompeo last night to let him know I was resigning from that. I can’t do it. I can’t stay,’ he said, relinquishing his post as special U.S. envoy to Northern Ireland in the final weeks of the Trump Administration.
Mulvaney said he has been in talks with other officials thinking about bailing out. Three did so amid the turmoil Wednesday. He acknowledged that his post was just a ‘part-time gig,’ but indicated he was determined to send a signal by giving it up. ‘It’s what I’ve got,’ he said.
He said he ‘wouldn’t be surprised’ to see ‘more of my friends res
ign over the next 24 to 48 hours.’ Mulvaney served in the House with Pompeo.
‘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,’ he said – voicing an argument made by many top Trump officials who lingered for months or years despite harboring doubts they later shared about Trump.
‘I can’t stay here. Not after yesterday,’ he said – with a model of Air Force One and a presidential seal in the background behind him during a video interview.
Mulvaney endured multiple slights from the president, who never elevated him from his ‘acting’ role. He told the network Trump was ‘not the same as he was eight months ago.’
Mulvaney, like other current and former lawmakers, watched a mob of trump supporters occupy and vandalize hallways they spent years frequenting – on a day when Congress ultimately counted the election certifications sent by 50 states and the District of Columbia formalizing President-elect Joe Biden’s win.
‘We didn’t sign up for what you saw last night,’ he said. He spoke of some administration accomplishments, then said: ‘But all of that went away yesterday, and I think you’re right to ask the question as to ‘how did it happen?’
He suggested Trump would forever be linked to what he termed an effort to ‘overtake’ the lawfully elected government.
White House adviser Jared Kushner, center, flanked by his wife Ivanka Trump, left, and acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, right, attend a dinner with President Donald Trump and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in Osaka, Japan. He said his legacy would now be identified with ‘the guy who tried to overtake the government’
‘The folks who spent time away from our families, put our careers on the line to go work for Donald Trump, and we did have those successes to look back at, but now it will always be, ‘Oh yeah, you work for the guy who tried to overtake the government,’ Mulvaney said.
‘That legacy is gone as of yesterday and that’s extraordinarily disappointing to those of us who work for him,’ he lamented.
His blunt assessment came hours after Deputy National Security Advisor Matt Pottinger has resigned from his role, becoming the latest White House official to quit in outrage over Donald Trump’s response to the siege on the US Capitol.
Pottinger handed in his resignation Wednesday in dismay over the day’s events where Trump supporters stormed the Capitol sending the seat of the federal government into lockdown, according to Bloomberg.
The Deputy National Security Advisor had been planning to stand down on election day. But sources told the outlet he decided to quit early as he was dismayed by Trump’s part in inciting the unrest that has so far left four dead.
Pottinger’s departure comes hot on the heels of the announcement that Stephanie Grisham, the former White House press secretary who became chief of staff for Melania Trump, resigned her position on Wednesday effective immediately.
Grisham’s decision was also said to be based on the riots and sources said more aides including National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien were on the brink of leaving.
She was followed by White House press secretary Sarah Matthews and White House social secretary Anna Cristina Niceta Lloyd.
The exodus from the Trump administration comes as the president has been accused of trying to freeze out his number two.
Sources said Trump had revoked Vice President Chief of Staff Marc Short’s White House access Wednesday after Mike Pence refused to bow to the president’s demand that he overturn the election.
Deputy National Security Advisor Matt Pottinger (center) has resigned from his role, as numerous White House officials are said to be outraged over Donald Trump’s response to the siege on the US Capitol
O’Brien had also planned to quit Wednesday but was then convinced to stay on in his role, the sources told Bloomberg.
The National Security Advisor had tweeted his praise for Pence’s handling of the situation in the Capitol earlier Wednesday, comparing his actions to his response during the September 11 terrorist attacks.
‘I just spoke with Vice President Pence. He is a genuinely fine and decent man,’ he tweeted.
‘He exhibited courage today as he did at the Capitol on 9/11 as a Congressman. I am proud to serve with him.’
Trump has reportedly viewed O’Brien’s tweets as a thinly-veiled attack on him.
Sources said Chris Liddell, assistant to the president and deputy chief of staff for policy coordination, could be next in line to resign.
Meanwhile, NBC News earlier reported that Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who is married to Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, was also considering resigning.
Grisham was the first White House aide to publicly announc
e her resignation.
‘It has been an honor to serve the country in the @WhiteHouse . I am very proud to have been a part of @FLOTUS @MELANIATRUMP mission to help children everywhere, & proud of the many accomplishments of this Administration. Signing off now,’ Grisham tweeted from her official account.
Grisham left because of the assault on the Capitol by the president’s supporters and the way Donald Trump handled it, a former administration staffer still close to her told DailyMail.com.
Stephanie Grisham pictured with Melania Trump. Grisham, the former White House press secretary who became chief of staff for Melania Trump , resigned her position on Wednesday
She was soon followed by deputy White House press secretary Sarah Matthews.
‘As someone who worked in the halls of Congress I was deeply disturbed by what I saw today. I’ll be stepping down from my role, effective immediately. Our nation needs a peaceful transfer of power,’ Matthews said in a statement.
Niceta, who also works in the East Wing with the first lady, also submitted her resignation tonight in reaction to today’s protest.
Reports had surfaced throughout the day that some White House aides were considering resigning over the mob scene at the Capitol and Trump’s lackluster response to it.
Trump had encouraged his supporters to march to the Capitol and ‘fight much harder’ during his rally earlier Wednesday.
‘And we are going to have to fight much harder,’ he said.
He reiterated his demands that Pence ‘is going to have to come through for us, and if he doesn’t, that will be a sad day for our country’.
And he also continued to push unfounded claims of election fraud claiming there has been an ‘egregious assault on our democracy.’
‘You will never take back our country with weakness,’ he said.
Also at the rally his son Donald Trump Jr. appeared to threaten GOP lawmakers that the Trump family would continue to fight the results of the election.
Robert OBrien, national security adviser, had also planned to quit Wednesday but was then convinced to stay on in his role, the sources told Bloomberg.
The National Security Advisor had tweeted his praise for Pence’s handling of the situation
‘These guys better fight for Trump. Because if they’re not, guess what? I’m going to be in your backyard in a couple of months!’ he told the crowd.
He also thanked the ‘red-blooded, patriotic Americans’ in the crowd ‘for standing up to the bulls**’ and an expletive-filled rant riling up the crowd.
Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney and the man who spearheaded his failed election legal battle, also told Trump fans to pursue a ‘trial by combat’ at the event.
Even when things turned violent, Trump remained silent for much of the afternoon.
Sources told Bloomberg it took numerous aides, including his Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, 45 minutes to convince the president to even send a tweet condemning the violence.
The president was even said to be ‘pleased’ about the siege and was watching the events while walking between the Oval Office and White House dining room, the insiders said.
He then finally posted a video telling his supporters ‘to go home’ late afternoon, after President-elect Joe Biden had addressed the nation and condemned the violence.
Vice President Chief of Staff Marc Short claimed Trump had revoked his White House access after Mike Pence refused to bow to the president’s demand to overturn the election
Even then, he told his ‘very special’ supporters inside the Capitol that he loves them and understands their pain.
Sources said he had been persuaded by Meadows and Ivanka Trump to put out the video.
Trump’s refusal to condemn the violence in the Capitol, which interrupted the constitutionally-mandated certification of the electoral college vote, drew criticism from several members of his own party and could lead to more people resigning in the coming days.
While several have chosen to distance themselves from the president, sources said Trump is now lashing out at his vice president over his refusal to reject the electoral votes for Biden.
The president told aides he had banned Pence’s chief of staff from the West Wing today, multiple sources said.
Pence defied Trump Wednesday, vowing to heed to the constitution and not overturn the electoral college as the president had urged him to do.
Pence sent a letter to the 535 senators and representatives on Capitol Hill ahead of his presiding over the Joint Session that will certify Joe Biden’s victory.
In it, he outlined his belief in his role in the proceedings, which he notes is ‘ceremonial’ and adds that it doesn’t include the authority to ‘determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not.’
Grisham’s decision was also said to be based on the riots Wednesday
Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who is married to Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, is considering resigning
Pence told Trump Tuesday he would not obey his demands, reported the New York Times.
Sources told Bloomberg Trump believed Short had leaked this to the press and this was one of the reasons for banning him from the West Wing.
Short was not seen entering the White House all day Wednesday.
He entered the Eisenhower Executive Office Building where Pence has his Vice Presidential Office and which is on the White House campus but did not go to the West Wing.
Grisham was one of President Trump’s longest serving aides, having joined him during the 2016 presidential campaign and lasted until the final weeks of his administration.
She was highly trusted by both Trumps, having been with them since 2015.
During her tenure as press secretary she carried the distinction of having never held a briefing in the White House press briefing room.
Grisham clashed with White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows when he joined the administration. He shook up the press operation, naming Kayleigh McEnany press secretary in April of this year.
Grisham then went back to the East Wing, where she had been previously the spokesperson for the first lady, to be Melania Trump’s chief of staff.
There were reports some White House aides were considering resigning over the mob scene at the Capitol and President Donald Trump ‘s failure to condemn it
She is close to Melania Trump with the two women texting often, even when Grisham was moved to the West Wing to hold the triple role of press secretary, communications director and spokesperson for the first lady.
But last month Grisham was subject to a ‘hit piece’ in the New York Post with White House ‘insiders’ blaming her for the first lady missing out on a magazine cover to Meghan Markle.
‘Out of nowhere and a complete hit piece,’ a senior administration official described it to DailyMail.com. ‘I’ve been trying to figure out what logic can be in it and I can’t find it. It’s two months until the end of the administration. I really don’t understand where this is coming from there.’
Citing ‘insiders who have worked for the White House over the past four years’ and ‘administration loyalists,’ the New York Post claimed the first lady has been ‘ill-served’ by Grisham.
One of the examples they cite is the September 2020 edition of the British magazine Tatler where Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, was featured on the cover instead of Melania Trump, who had given the magazine an interview via e-mail.
The New York Post is known to be one of President Trump’s favorite papers and one he reads daily – meaning the piece was surely noticed by the commander-in-chief.
During her tenure as press secretary, Stephanie Grisham carried the distinction of having never held a briefing in the White House press briefing room
Stephanie Grisham on Air Force One with President Donald Trump in August 2019