8 Jan 2021

Capitol attack aftermath: Resignations and condemnations

7:27 pm on 8 January 2021

Three high-profile Trump Cabinet members have now resigned after pro-Trump rioters stormed the US Capitol yesterday.

WASHINGTON D.C., USA - JANUARY 6: US President Donald Trump speaks at "Save America March" rally in Washington D.C., United States on January 06, 2021. Tayfun Coskun / Anadolu Agency

Photo: AFP

US media are reporting that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos tendered her resignation on Thursday night (local time).

"We should be highlighting and celebrating your Administration's many accomplishments on behalf of the American people," the Wall Street Journal says she wrote in her resignation letter.

"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. There is no mistaking the impact your rhetoric had on the situation, and it is the inflection point for me.

"Impressionable children are watching all this, and they are learning from us."

The assistant secretary for the US Health and Human Services Elinore McCance-Kat also resigned today.

McCance-Kat wrote in her resignation letter that she planned to stay until the administration change occurred, but her plans changed following the riots.

She said she believed the behaviour was totally unacceptable and was simply not able to continue.

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced her resignation earlier.

Four more senior advisers in the White House National Security Council joined the exodus, a senior administration official told Reuters.

The officials who to joined growing exodus of Trump aides, were: Erin Walsh, senior director for African affairs; Mark Vandroff, senior director for defense policy; Anthony Rugierro, senior director for weapons of mass destruction; and Rob Greenway, senior director for Middle Eastern and North African affairs.

Meanwhile, New Zealander Chris Liddell is staying on at the White House for the transition of power.

Liddell is assistant to the president and deputy chief of staff.

Despite the raft of high-profile resignations from cabinet, Liddell has reportedly decided to stay on at the White House to ensure the transition to Joe Biden's administration proceeds smoothly.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was a controversial figure. Much of her focus was on changing funding mechanisms for private and religious schools - at the expense of public schools, her critics claimed.

The top Democrats in Congress, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, had called on Vice President Mike Pence and Trump's Cabinet to invoke a provision of the US Constitution that allows them to remove the president from power if he is unable to discharge the duties of the office.

Barring that, Pelosi said she would likely reconvene the House to initiate impeachment proceedings against Trump for his role in the violence, which claimed five lives.

US Capitol Police confirmed that police officer Brian Sicknick died today due to injuries sustained in response to the riot yesterday.

"Officer Sicknick was responding to the riots on Wednesday, January 6, 2021, at the US Capitol and was injured while physically engaging with protesters", the police said in a statement.

One woman was shot and killed by Capitol Police as the crowd breached the building and three others died due to medical emergencies.

See how the day unfolded with RNZ's live blog:

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