Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao is the first Cabinet-level official planning to resign after Wednesday's Capitol riot.
Chao indicated her plans to resign in a Thursday email to Department of Transportation colleagues, citing the mob of President Trump's supporters who attacked the Capitol building the day before. Chao quickly shared the message on her social media accounts, writing that "traumatic and entirely avoidable event ... troubled me in a way that I simply cannot set aside." Chao's team would aid President-elect Joe Biden's nominee Pete Buttigieg as he transitioned to lead the department, she added.
Chao will be the highest-level departure from the Trump administration in the wake of the siege, but comes after several other White House officials, including Trump's former chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, said they'd depart ahead of Inauguration Day.
The move comes after The Daily Beast reported Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who is married to Chao, spent Wednesday night asking high-level White House officials to stay at their posts. The Post also reported four conservative GOP senators, including Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), were calling key senior White House officials to urge them not to resign. Lee's reasoning is to keep "strong leadership" in top positions until the transition, per the Post.
Chao's departure complicates reported discussions of invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office. The clause requires a majority of Cabinet officials and the vice president to tell Congress a president should be removed, allowing the vice president to take charge.