DeVos quits and blames Trump for mob attack on US Capitol

Billionaire becomes second in Cabinet to make symbolic move with two weeks left

January 8, 2021
Source: iStock

US education secretary Betsy DeVos has resigned with less than two weeks left in office, telling President Trump she held him responsible for the “unconscionable” mob attack on the US Capitol and its effects on children.

“There is no mistaking the impact your rhetoric had on the situation, and it is the inflection point for me,” Ms DeVos told Mr Trump in a seven-paragraph letter of resignation.

“Impressionable children are watching all of this, and they are learning from us,” she wrote. “I believe we each have a moral obligation to exercise good judgement and model the behaviour we hope they would emulate.”

Ms DeVos is among several administration officials, and is the second Cabinet member, to quit after Mr Trump incited a mob that stormed the nation’s legislative building in a deadly and futile bid to overturn his election loss.

Among other repercussions, the action has prompted calls among lawmakers and within the business community for US vice-president Mike Pence to join the Cabinet members in initiating a constitutional process to remove Mr Trump from office before his term ends on 20 January.

Congressional Democrats also have called for a new effort to impeach him. While that question is substantive, given Mr Trump’s control over the US military, Ms DeVos’ resignation merely means she leaves a few days ahead of the transition of presidential power.

Ms DeVos, to the consternation of many in the US higher education community, had been one of Mr Trump's most ardent defenders. She even wrote a farewell letter earlier in the week urging Congress to frustrate president-elect Joe Biden in areas that include his calls for student loan debt forgiveness.

And while Mr Trump campaigned on the need to root out “deep state” actors – non-partisan government employees who secretly undermined his agenda – Ms DeVos reportedly told Education Department staff to behave in that very manner toward Mr Biden’s team.

Yet within hours of the attack on the Capitol – which led to at least five deaths, numerous injuries, extensive property damage and a delay in the official certification of Mr Biden’s electoral victory – Ms DeVos posted a note of protest to Twitter.

“The peaceful transfer of power is what separates American representative democracy from banana republics,” the Michigan billionaire wrote.

In her resignation letter, Ms DeVos more clearly places the blame on Mr Trump, who addressed and emboldened the mob of supporters just before it headed to the Capitol, urging participants to deter lawmakers from formally certifying Mr Biden’s victory.

“We should be highlighting and celebrating your administration’s many accomplishments on behalf of the American people,” she told the president. “Instead, we are left to clean up the mess caused by violent protestors overrunning the US Capitol in an attempt to undermine the people’s business. That behaviour was unconscionable for our country.”

During and immediately after the attack, university leaders from around the country issued their own statements condemning Mr Trump for trying for years to rule through the spread of misinformation and incitement to political violence.

They included Michael Drake, president of the University of California system, who said: “We must stand together – regardless of political party or point of view – to uphold, protect and defend our bedrock values.”

Another condemnation came from Paul Taylor, president of Saint Vincent College, who said his private Catholic institution had accepted the resignation of an adjunct faculty member who participated in the riot.

The instructor was identified in multiple media reports as Rick Saccone, a lecturer in political science, and former Pennsylvania state representative, who posted to Facebook a video of him saying the mob hoped to drive from office the “evil people” who have “betrayed our president”.

Mr Biden has nominated Miguel Cardona, the state education commissioner in Connecticut, to serve as US education secretary in his administration. In his own comment on Twitter, Dr Cardona said: “Our kids deserve better. History has its eyes on us.”

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