Deputy National Security Adviser Matt Pottinger, a leading figure in the development of Trump’s China policy, resigned abruptly on the day of the riot, a senior administration official told Reuters.
That was followed by Ryan Tully, the senior director for European and Russian affairs at the National Security Council, another senior official said on condition of anonymity.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said on Friday (AEDT) that five non-career staff members at the agency would resign effective on Monday in the wake of the riots.
The email from FAA chief of staff Angela Stubblefield said “all our non-career staff members here at FAA” that had been appointed by Trump were resigning. Her email added that “given the gravity of yesterday’s events, are understandable. Like all of us, they are outraged by the brazen and violent attack on one of the sacred institutions of American democracy.”
Trump’s pledge on Thursday about an “orderly transition” to President-elect Joe Biden on January 20 was partly intended to head off further resignations, but the second official told Reuters: “It’s not going to stop it.”
With under two weeks left of Trump’s presidency, many aides were already heading for the door but the sudden departures underscored the revulsion among some Trump staffers over what was widely seen as his encouragement of mobs of supporters who stormed the Capitol in an attempt to prevent formal certification of Biden’s November 3 election victory.
Congress eventually did so very early on Thursday morning.
The shocking images at the Capitol filled television screens in the United States and around the world, a deep stain on Trump’s presidency and legacy as his tenure nears its end.
Among those who were spurred to quit on Thursday was Mick Mulvaney, a former White House chief of staff who resigned his post as a special envoy to Northern Ireland.
“I wouldn’t be surprised to see more of my friends resign over the course of the next 24 to 48 hours,” he said on CNBC.
John Costello, deputy assistant secretary at the Commerce Department, announced his departure in a blistering tweet, writing “yesterday’s events were an unprecedented attack on the very core of our democracy – incited by a sitting president.”
Further departures are especially likely at the National Security Council, one of the officials said. It coordinates US foreign policy among federal agencies and maintains close contacts with foreign governments, so the loss of key staffers could raise questions about national security amid a presidential transition.
The assault on the Capitol drew condemnation from US friends and foes alike, with many blaming Trump for inciting his supporters and not doing enough to rein them in.
Pottinger’s boss, national security adviser Robert O’Brien, has no plans to quit, the first official said. But a person familiar with the matter said O’Brien had considered quitting.
“A strong national security team remains in place at the State Department, the Department of Defence, Treasury, the intelligence community and the National Security Council”, the official said.
Trump’s team has been coordinating with the Biden transition team for several weeks.
The White House had no immediate comment.
Confirming Pottinger’s departure, O’Brien said on Twitter: “His work led to a great awakening in our country and around the world to the danger posed by the Chinese Communist Party.”
An administration official described Trump as “increasingly isolated” and said that “national security officials who are loyal to their oath to the constitution will be standing watch until Inauguration Day and will then turn over power to the duly elected new president.”
There has been no indication of any planned resignation by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a close Trump ally. But he distanced himself from Trump by condemning as “criminals” the mob that overran the Capitol.
Former US diplomats said it was unlikely there would be major departures at the State Department, where staffers have long endured Trump’s accusations that they are part of a “deep state” seeking to frustrate his policies.
“It would be very strange for people to self-immolate just when they see a ship on the horizon,” said a former State Department official on condition of anonymity.
First lady Melania Trump’s chief of staff Stephanie Grisham also resigned after the riots.
Grisham did not say whether her resignation was in reaction to the violence, but a source familiar with her decision said it was the last straw.
The White House social secretary, Rickie Niceta, also stepped down, as did a deputy White House press secretary Sarah Matthews, two sources told Reuters.
Pottinger, a former Reuters and Wall Street Journal reporter who left journalism to join the US Marines after the September 11 attacks on the United States in 2001, had served in the White House since the beginning of Trump’s presidency in 2017.
His departure comes amid high tension with Beijing. Trump’s administration has pursued hardline policies towards China on issues ranging from trade to espionage and the coronavirus, and relations have sunk to their worst level in decades.
US lawmakers called the action by Trump’s supporters an embarrassment to American democracy that would play into the hands of rivals like China.
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