Alex Azar, the Secretary of Health and Human Services and one of the White House’s prime drivers in Operation Warp Speed, has resigned according to NBC News and National Review. As with several of the other recent departures, Azar is citing the Capitol riots of January 6 as the primary reason for his departure. If you think both the timing and the optics of this are a bit strange, you’re not alone. But as we’ll see in a moment, this isn’t looking like the same sort of bright red line that other Trump administration officials have been drawing. And the actual impact will likely be essentially nothing.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar submitted his resignation in a letter to President Trump on January 12, citing the pro-Trump riot at the Capitol last week, NBC reported…
A number of officials, including Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, resigned from the administration following last week’s riot at the Capitol. President Trump incited a mob of his supporters to amass at the Capitol while Congress certified the results of the election, and the mob subsequently breached the building, forcing lawmakers to evacuate. Rioters injured dozens of police officers, including one who later died of his injuries.
The first question that may come to mind is why Azar waited ten full days to call it quits. It turns out he didn’t. He reportedly turned in his notice on Tuesday, but they decided not to announce it until now.
Also, there won’t be any need for an acting HHS secretary or any attempt at confirmation in the final days of Donald Trump’s presidency. That’s because the resignation doesn’t take effect until January 20th, the day of Joe Biden’s inauguration. Azar would have had to submit his resignation to Biden on that date anyway, so nothing has actually changed.
That leaves us to wonder why he would bother resigning at all. In his letter to Trump, he cites the attacks on the Capitol as “an assault on our Democracy and the tradition of peaceful transitions of power.” That line was pretty much cribbed from the resignation letters of Chao and DeVos, among others. But Azar then goes on to reference the ongoing pandemic and vaccine distribution issues as cause for him to “remain as Secretary until the end of the term.”
Not for nothing, but you didn’t really resign then, did you? If you resigned, you would have no official duties and wouldn’t be in charge of Warp Speed anymore, right? This sounds mostly like a “me too” maneuver (not to be confused with the Me Too Movement against sexual assault) so Azar isn’t left hanging out in the wind, looking like he’s sticking with Trump. That’s not all that unusual, since a lot of the rats fleeing the ship have their eyes on the rest of their careers. Given how quickly liberals are moving to cancel anyone even vaguely associated with the President, it’s not an unjustified concern.
But his letter really just blames “the attacks on the Capitol” without directly implicating Trump himself. Unless he plans on coming out with a more forceful statement later, directly blaming Trump’s speech for the attacks (despite the FBI having warned about them ahead of time), I rather doubt the woke brigade is going to be in much of a mood to forgive him. There apparently isn’t going to be any 25th Amendment action from Pence, so Azar didn’t have to worry about voting to remove Trump early. Looked at in that light, he might as well have just kept his trap closed, stuck it out until the 20th and hoped for the best.