HHS Secretary Blasts Trump’s Role in Capitol Riots in Resignation Letter

“The actions and rhetoric following the election…threaten to tarnish” the administration’s legacy, he wrote.

Jeremy Hogan/SOPA/LightRocket/Getty

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Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar condemned President Trump’s “actions and rhetoric following the election” in a resignation letter obtained by CNN, telling Trump that these actions “threaten to tarnish” the administration’s legacy. 

“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,” Azar wrote.

Since the riots at the Capitol, which Trump incited and only meekly condemned, several Cabinet members, including Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, have resigned early. Azar said he plans to stay on until Joe Biden is inaugurated and listed what he believed were HHS’s main accomplishments during his tenure, as is customary for end-of-term resignation letters. But he also singled out Trump’s mild reaction to the violence carried out in his name.

“Unfortunately, the actions and rhetoric following the election, especially during this past week, threaten to tarnish these and other historic legacies of this Administration,” he 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, and to continue to support unreservedly the peaceful and orderly transition of power on January 20, 2021.”

Azar, who as the president of a pharmaceutical company was known for price-gouging insulin, will be forever tied to the outbreak of the coronavirus last year and the haphazard government response that followed. Despite learning about the threat of the coronavirus in early January, Azar “struggled to get Trump’s attention to focus on the issue,” the Washington Post reported last year. Weeks after his administration had already convened a task force to address the virus, Trump was still falsely claiming that it would “go away.”

“While we mourn every lost life, our early, aggressive and comprehensive efforts saved hundreds of thousands or even millions of American lives,” Azar wrote in the letter.

More than 23.6 million people have been infected with the coronavirus in the United States, which now has the world’s worst outbreak. Nearly 400,000 Americans have died from it.

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