Education Secretary Betsy DeVos submitted her resignation on Jan. 7, blaming President Donald Trump for contributing to the civil unrest that unfolded on U.S. Capitol grounds during demonstrations he supported over concerns about election integrity.
“There is no mistaking the impact your rhetoric had on the situation,” DeVos wrote in a letter to the president.
Thousands of protesters followed Trump to gather around the Capitol on Wednesday afternoon after his speech outside the White House, during which he asked protesters to “peaceful and patriotically make your voices heard” at the Capitol and urged Vice President Mike Pence to send contested Electoral College Votes back to state legislatures. Both of these things did not eventuate.
DeVos became the second Cabinet secretary to resign following the acts of violence and lawlessness that transpired as some rioters and protesters decided to unlawfully enter the capitol building as the majority of Trump supporters rallied outside. The breach of the Capitol disrupted debates in both the House and Senate as lawmakers were forced to shelter in place as police and security attempted to seize back control of the situation.
She had been one of the president’s longest serving and most loyal Cabinet secretaries.
DeVos said her resignation is effective Friday, Jan. 8, calling Wednesday’s civil unrest “the inflection point” for her.
“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 protesters overrunning the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to undermine the people’s business. That behavior was unconscionable for our country.”
— Secretary Betsy DeVos (@BetsyDeVosED) January 6, 2021
In condemning the unrest earlier, DeVos said in a statement on Twitter that the “disruptions and violence” of the “angry mob … must end.”
“The law must be upheld, and the work of the people must go on,” she wrote. “The eyes of America’s children and students—the rising generation who will inherit the Republic we leave them—are watching what is unfolding in Washington today. We must set a better example for them, and we must teach them the solemn obligations and duties that come with the title ‘America.’”
In a video message released Thursday evening, the president called on the country to heal and have faith following the civil unrest at the U.S. Capitol, telling Americans that he has now turned his focus on ensuring a “smooth, orderly, and seamless transition of power” to a new administration that will be inaugurated on Jan. 20.
Congress certified the electoral votes for former Vice President Joe Biden hours earlier.
Trump condemned the acts of violence and lawlessness.
“Like all Americans, I am outraged by the violence, lawlessness, and mayhem,” Trump said. “I immediately deployed the National Guard and federal law enforcement to secure the building and expel the intruders.
“America is and must always be a nation of law and order,” he said. “The demonstrators who infiltrated the Capitol have defiled the seat of American democracy.”
He warned that people who broke the law would have to “pay,” adding that those who engaged in violence and destruction “do not represent our country.”
“We have just been through an intense election and emotions are high. But now tempers must be cooled and calm restored,” Trump said.
Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao also submitted her resignation Thursday morning after taking the “time to absorb” what happened on Jan. 6 and the president’s response to it.
“Today, there was a lot of soul-searching and discussion,” Chao said, noting that her resignation will take effect on Monday, Jan. 11. “It was obviously the right thing to do.”
DeVos had submitted a letter to Congress on Monday offering her “closing thoughts” on her time heading the department. It urged lawmakers to push back against policies supported by Biden, and to protect the Trump administration policies that Biden has vowed to eliminate.
The letter was addressed to leaders in the House and Senate, as well as to committees that oversee the Education Department.
Janita Kan contributed to this report.