Several White House officials have resigned following a failed insurrection inside the Capitol and Donald Trump’s failure to stop his supporters from rioting in the wake of his false claims of election fraud.
Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Matthews, First Lady Melania Trump’s chief of staff Stephanie Grisham, and White House social secretary Rickie Niceta submitted their resignations on Wednesday night, two weeks before president-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.
Ms Grisham previously served as the White House communications director.
“It has been an honour to serve the country in the [White House],” she said in a brief statement on Twitter. “I am very proud to have been a part of [Melania Trump’s] mission to help children everywhere, and proud of the many accomplishments of this Administration.”
Several of the president’s top aides – including his national security adviser Robert O'Brien, as well as deputy national security adviser Matt Pottinger and deputy chief of staff Chris Liddell – are also reportedly considering leaving the administration.
Reports of their departure followed in the hours after a violent mob breached the halls of Congress, mounting an insurrection after the president repeatedly and falsely insisted to his supporters that the 2020 presidential election was “stolen” from them, as a joint session of Congress convened to formally count Electoral College votes to certify Joe Biden’s election.
White House staff and officials now are mulling their resignation in the wake of the chaos, just 14 days from the president-elect’s swearing-in ceremony.
“I was honored to serve in the Trump administration and proud of the policies we enacted,” Ms Matthews said in a statement. “I was deeply disturbed by what I saw today. I'll be stepping down from my role, effective immediately. Our nation needs a peaceful transfer of power.”
Lawmakers were forced into recess and ordered to shelter in place and evacuate, as pro-Trump rioters breached the Capitol and broke into chambers and offices. Capitol Police shot one woman, who was pronounced dead at nearby hospital. At least three other people died due to medical emergencies, according to police.
Law enforcement recovered two pipe bombs, as well as a cooler full of molotov cocktails, according to Metropolitan Police Department Chief Robert Contee. Police have arrested at least 52 people, mostly for curfew violations, as of Tuesday night.
In remarks from Delaware on Tuesday afternoon, the president-elect urged the president to “fulfill his oath and defend the Constitution and demand an end to this siege.”
“It’s not a protest – it’s insurrection,” he said. “The world’s watching. I am genuinely shocked and sad that our nation, so long the beacon of light and hope for democracy, has come to such a dark moment.”
Moments later, the president posted a pre-taped message to his social media, falsely insisting that the election was “stolen” from his supporters and that he won “in a landslide” before telling rioters to “go home now.”
“We have to have peace, we have to have law and order, we have to respect our great people in law and order,” he said. “This was a fraudulent election, but we can’t play into the hands of these people.”
Twitter has suspended the president’s account for 12 hours for “repeated and severe violations” of its civic integrity policy.
Both chambers of Congress reconvened at 8pm on Tuesday to debate and vote on objections to electoral vote counts.
Vice President Mike Pence, who has dismissed the president’s calls to unilaterally reject electoral votes, condemned the "unprecedented violence and vandalism” at the Capitol as he returned to the dais and as workers cleaned up the mess in its wake.
"We’ve never been deterred before, and we’ll be not deterred today,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor. “They tried to disrupt our democracy. They failed.”
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