Top Trump staffers quit in disgust blaming President for riots

Top national security aides and other staffers have resigned from President Donald Trump’s administration in protest over the storming of Capitol Hill by his supporters, and officials said on Thursday more departures are expected soon.

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao is the first Cabinet secretary to resign in protest after President Trump incited the mob.

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, with her husband, Republican Senator Mitch McConnell, last November. She has just resigned from Cabinet over the Capitol riots. Credit:AP

Chao said the "traumatic" and "entirely avoidable" storming of the Capitol building on Wednesday afternoon, local time, had "deeply troubled me in a way that I simply cannot set aside."

Deputy national security adviser Matt Pottinger, a leading figure in the development of Trump’s China policy, resigned abruptly on the day of the riot, a senior administration official told Reuters.

That was followed by Ryan Tully, the senior director for European and Russian affairs at the National Security Council, another senior official said on condition of anonymity.

Trump’s pledge at around 3.30am Thursday, local time, about an “orderly transition” to President-elect Joe Biden on January 20 was partly intended to head off further resignations, but the second official told Reuters: “It’s not going to stop it.”

Deputy National Security Adviser Matt Pottinger, seen addressing London-based think tank Policy Exchangelast year, resigned on the day of the riots. Credit:Policy Exchange/You Tube

With under two weeks left of Trump’s presidency, many aides were already heading for the door but the sudden departures underscored the revulsion among some Trump staffers over what was widely seen as his encouragement of mobs of supporters who stormed the Capitol in an attempt to prevent formal certification of Biden’s November 3 election victory.

Congress eventually did so very early on Thursday morning.

The shocking images at the Capitol filled television screens in the United States and around the world, a deep stain on Trump’s presidency and legacy as his tenure nears its end.

Among those who were spurred to quit on Thursday was Mick Mulvaney, a former White House chief of staff who resigned his post as a special envoy to Northern Ireland.

Mick Mulvaney resigned as special envoy to Northern Ireland. Credit:Bloomberg

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see more of my friends resign over the course of the next 24 to 48 hours,” he said on CNBC.

Further departures are especially likely at the National Security Council, one of the officials said. It coordinates US foreign policy among federal agencies and maintains close contacts with foreign governments, so the loss of key staffers could raise questions about national security amid a presidential transition.

Stephanie Grisham resigned her position as Mealnia Trump’s chief-of-staffCredit:AP

An administration official described Trump as “increasingly isolated” and said that “national security officials who are loyal to their oath to the constitution will be standing watch until Inauguration Day and will then turn over power to the duly elected new president.”

There has been no indication of any planned resignation by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a close Trump ally. But he distanced himself from Trump by condemning as “criminals” the mob that overran the Capitol.

Former US diplomats said it was unlikely there would be major departures at the State Department, where staffers have long endured Trump’s accusations that they are part of a “deep state” seeking to frustrate his policies.

“It would be very strange for people to self-immolate just when they see a ship on the horizon,” said a former State Department official on condition of anonymity.

First lady Melania Trump’s chief of staff Stephanie Grisham also resigned on Wednesday.

Grisham did not say whether her resignation was in reaction to the violence, but a source familiar with her decision said it was the last straw.

The White House social secretary, Rickie Niceta, also stepped down, as did a deputy White House press secretary Sarah Matthews, two sources told Reuters.

Pottinger, a former Reuters and Wall Street Journal reporter who left journalism to join the U.S. Marines after the September 11 attacks on the United States in 2001, had served in the White House since the beginning of Trump’s presidency in 2017.

His departure comes amid high tension with Beijing. Trump’s administration has pursued hardline policies towards China on issues ranging from trade to espionage and the coronavirus, and relations have sunk to their worst level in decades.

US lawmakers called the action by Trump’s supporters an embarrassment to American democracy that would play into the hands of rivals like China.


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