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Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao Resigns After Attack on U.S. Capitol

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao Resigns After Attack on U.S. Capitol
Joe Cortez

If the president’s cabinet is considering invoking the 25th Amendment, former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao will not be involved in the decision. The 18th leader of the department announced her resignation just after 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021, to take effect in the next week.

In direct protest of the actions of president Donald Trump, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced she will resign, leaving the office unoccupied for the final nine days of his presidency. On Twitter, the 18th secretary posted a short letter to the employees of her department, announcing the end of her leadership on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021.

“I Am Tremendously Proud of The Many Accomplishments We Were Able to Achieve Together”

One of the few secretaries who was not ceremoniously dismissed or ultimately resigned during the entire Trump administration, Chao was confirmed by the United States Senate on Jan. 31, 2017. Prior to becoming the leader of the Transportation department, Chao was the 24th secretary of Labor under president George W. Bush, and also had experience as the deputy secretary of Transportation, and as a commissioner and ultimately chairwoman of the Federal Maritime Commission.

Her leadership as the Transportation Secretary oversaw some of the darkest days affecting the aviation community since the Sept. 11 attacks. Not only was she in charge when the Boeing 737 MAX was grounded worldwide after two fatal accidents, but her department also refused to create a face covering mandate on all common transportation modes across the United States. By the end of her term, the Boeing 737 MAX was un-grounded with a new airworthiness directive, while the FAA issued a final rule to once again welcome supersonic passenger aircraft over American skies.

“I am tremendously proud of the many accomplishments we were able to achieve together for our country,” Chao wrote in her letter. “I will never forget the commitment you have for this Department and the United States of America.”

Her resignation comes one day after protestors stormed the U.S. Capitol Building in an attempted insurrection, whipped into a frenzy earlier in the day by the president at a rally. Chao called the event “a traumatic and entirely avoidable event,” adding: “It has deeply troubled me in a way that I simply cannot set aside.”

Of the resignations in the hours after the attack, Chao is the only cabinet member to walk away. According to USA Today, the additional resignations include former presidential chief of staff and special envoy to Northern Ireland Mick Mulvaney, chief of staff to the first lady Stephanie Grisham and deputy national security advisor Matt Pottinger.

Focus Turns to Transition of Power with Secretary Nominee Buttigieg

With her remaining time in office, Chao said: “We will help my announced successor, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, with taking on the responsibility of running this wonderful department.” Several stakeholders in the aviation industry have praised the choice of Buttigieg, with confirmation all-but-certain when the Senate is seated for business once again.

Image courtesy: kmf164/flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

View Comments (2)


  1. Jackie_414

    January 8, 2021 at 9:18 am

    “Rats fleeing the ship.”

  2. J S

    January 16, 2021 at 6:30 am

    Waiting until the last 2 weeks of this complete dumpster fire of a presidency to take a stand is not exactly a profile in courage.

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