US Health secretary Azar warns Capitol riots have threatened Trump’s legacy in resignation letter

‘The attacks on the Capitol were an assault on our democracy’

James Crump
Tuesday 19 January 2021 12:11 GMT
Donald Trump refuses to take responsibility for Capitol riot
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US Health and Human Services secretary Alex Azar has warned President Donald Trump that last week’s Capitol riots threaten his administration’s legacy in a resignation letter submitted earlier this week.

Mr Azar, 53, sent the resignation letter to Mr Trump on Tuesday, with it taking effect from 20 January. It is standard procedure for a Cabinet secretary to offer an outgoing president a resignation letter, according to CNN.

In the letter, Mr Azar wrote about what he thought were the best accomplishments of the Trump administration, but warned that the president’s actions since losing 3 November’s election threaten its legacy.

President Trump has spent the months since 3 November’s election contesting President-elect Joe Biden’s victory and making repeated baseless claims that there was widespread voter fraud in favour of the Democrats.

He was also impeached by the House for the second time on Wednesday, in reaction to a mob of pro-Trump supporters breaching the US Capitol last week after being incited by Mr Trump at a rally held nearby.

“Unfortunately, the actions and rhetoric following the election, especially during this past week, threaten to tarnish these and other historic legacies of this Administration,” Mr Azar wrote in the letter on Tuesday.

“The attacks on the Capitol were an assault on our democracy and on the tradition of peaceful transitions of power that the United States of America first brought to the world,” he added.

Although Mr Biden was confirmed as the next president by Congress last week, Mr Trump continues to falsely claim the election was stolen.

Mr Azar criticised Mr Trump’s repeated false claims of voter fraud and wrote: “I implore you to continue to condemn unequivocally any form of violence, to demand that no one attempt to disrupt the inaugural activities in Washington or elsewhere.”

He asked Mr Trump “to continue to support unreservedly the peaceful and orderly transition of power on January 20, 2021.”

President Trump acknowledged last week that “a new administration will be inaugurated” and called for calm, but has still not officially conceded the election.

Mr Azar was not the first Trump administration cabinet member to criticise the president for his role in the riots last week, in which five people died and numerous more were injured.

Transportation secretary Elaine Chao and Education secretary Betsy DeVos both resigned in the wake of the riots, with the former calling the events “traumatic and entirely avoidable”.

Following his impeachment in the House, Mr Trump faces a Senate trial in the early days of the Biden administration. If convicted he could be barred from running for president again.

Mr Azar, who has served in the role since 2018 and has overseen the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, will be replaced by California attorney general Xavier Becerra when Mr Biden takes office on Wednesday.

The US has so far only vaccinated around 11 million people, which is short of the 20 million it planned to vaccinate by the end of December.

Mr Biden has promised to vaccinate 100 million Americans in the first 100 days of his administration, in order to effectively tackle the pandemic that has so far cost the lives of more than 392,000 people in the US.

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