The resignations have begun at the White House. It is not particularly unusual for staff and others to begin to move on from their positions in a White House that will soon be in the hands of a different president. Yesterday’s insurrection at the Capitol by Trump supporters, however, forced the hand of some who may have stayed around until the last day. Expect to see more resignations in the coming days.
The person with the highest-profile to resign so far, as I write this, is the Trump administration’s envoy to Northern Ireland, Mick Mulvaney. He served as President Trump’s chief of staff before his current position. The insurrection at the Capitol and the president’s poor handling of the situation brought Mulvaney to the point of resignation. Calling it a “small job, a part-time gig but it’s all I’ve got in the administration”, he told CNBC’s Squawk Box that after talking to his family, he called Secretary of State Pompeo to deliver his resignation. Mulvaney said it’s a small role he has that doesn’t affect the presidential transition in any way. He’s really enjoyed the job but, “I can’t do it. I can’t stay.”
Mulvaney said other resignations will likely be coming within the next 24 to 48 hours, though he has spoken to some who will stay. Those people, he said, prefer to stay out of concern that Trump will replace them with someone else that could “make things even worse.” Mulvaney pointed to the insurrection and said “You can’t look at that and think I want to be a part of that in any way, shape or form.” He credited Vice-President Pence and Robert O’Brien, who stood up for Pence, for the role Pence played in certifying the electoral votes, for honoring his constitutional duty though Trump was pressuring him to do otherwise.
National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien was not in Washington yesterday, he was traveling in Florida. He tweeted support for Pence and voiced concern about what was happening.
O’Brien, traveling in Florida, was appalled at the Capitol mob and angry that Trump attacked Pence even while he and lawmakers were under siege, one person familiar with his thinking said Wednesday. O’Brien tweeted support for Pence and did not mention Trump.
“I just spoke with Vice President Pence. He is a genuinely fine and decent man,” O’Brien tweeted from his personal account. “He exhibited courage today as he did at the Capitol on 9/11 as a Congressman. I am proud to serve with him.”
Matthew Pottinger, the deputy national security adviser to the Trump administration with a special focus on relations with China, resigned Wednesday. Both O’Brien and Deputy Chief of Staff Chris Liddell are expected to resign. If O’Brien does resign, it is unclear who will replace him since Pottinger, next in line, has resigned. This is a tense time for the national security people, especially given the threats coming from Iran.
Wednesday night it was reported that Stephanie Grisham, former White House communications director and press secretary and current chief of staff for first lady Melania Trump, resigned. That was notable, given her unwavering loyalty to both President Trump and Melania. She has been with Trump, first with the campaign and then in the White House, since 2015. Her resignation is effective immediately. She didn’t mention Trump in her statement, only Melania.
“It has been an honor to serve the country in the White House. I am very proud to have been a part of Mrs. Trump’s mission to help children everywhere, and proud of the many accomplishments of this Administration,” Grisham told CNN in a statement.
White House social secretary Anna Cristina “Rickie” Niceta, another long-serving Trump staffer, also resigned Wednesday. As with all the other resignations so far, her’s is effective immediately.
Niceta served as the administration’s sole social secretary, assuming the post in February 2017. The social secretary conducts and oversees all events at the White House, from small meetings in the West Wing to the annual Easter Egg Roll, Halloween, state visits, and congressional picnics and galas.
White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Matthews resigned 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. I’ll be stepping down from my role, effective immediately,” Matthews told Fox News Wednesday night. “Our nation needs a peaceful transfer of power.”
President Trump’s incompetence in handling the insurrection and his refusal to admit that some of those who gathered in support of him turned violent, turning into a rioting mob, is the common thread in all of the resignations. When Trump finally agreed to make a brief video telling the rioters to go home and be peaceful, he ad-libbed with his claims of a stolen election though the people around him, like Mark Meadows and Stephen Miller, asked him to not talk about that. By acting slowly and only fecklessly tweeting out a call for peace before the video, Trump even allowed Joe Biden to get out in front of him. Biden actually sounded statesman-like in his message.
A lot of blame falls on Trump’s lack of leadership in tamping down the violence yesterday at the Capitol and his continued messages of the bitterness of losing the election played a large part in the death and destruction. However, the people choosing to make the insurrection the very last straw that broke the camel’s back of their support of Trump should be viewed with a bit of a jaded eye. They all could have resigned at any point of the administration – this wasn’t the only time Trump fell short of acting presidential. As a friend of mine on social media pointed out, these people have their future in mind above everything else.
If you think today's WH resignations have anything to do with morals and nothing to do with ensuring the next fat DC paycheck, then you're not very bright.
— Teri (@TeriChristoph) January 7, 2021
They are abandoning a sinking ship and hoping to avoid personal harm to their future careers. Let’s hope Trump keeps his word that there will be an orderly transfer of power in two weeks. And peaceful. What happened yesterday must never happen again.