US Health Secretary Alex Azar announced on Friday that he is stepping down from his appointed position, citing the Capitol riots. He will, however, remain at the post until 20 January, the final day that Trump will occupy the White House.
"Unfortunately, the actions and rhetoric following the election, especially during this past week, threaten to tarnish these and other historic legacies of this administration", Azar said in his letter, referring to the Trump administration response to the coronavirus pandemic and other healthcare system failures. "The attacks on the Capitol were an assault on our democracy and on the tradition of peaceful transition of power that the United States of America first brought to the world."
He urged Trump to "condemn unequivocally any form of violence" and to demand that no one attempt to disrupt the upcoming Joe Biden inauguration.
HHS Sec Azar didn’t resign today. He’s submitted his resignation letter, dated Jan 12, effective Jan 20— Meredith Lee (@meredithllee) January 16, 2021
He cites the Capitol attack but says he will remain until Jan 20 pic.twitter.com/lTWrWHMOv6
Earlier in the day, Azar told NBC News in an interview that the United States does not have a reserve stockpile of coronavirus vaccines, but he was confident that "ongoing production" will be enough to provide people with their second dose.
With his resignation, the Trump-appointed Health Secretary becomes the fourth member of the outgoing president's administration to resign in the aftermath of the violent 6 January Capitol insurrection.
Earlier, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf also stepped down from their positions, citing similar reasoning.
The Capitol saw crowds of Trump supporters storm and ransack the building on 6 January, with the riot resulting in five deaths, including that of a Capitol Police officer who was bludgeoned with a fire extinguisher. The president, who is set to leave the White House in five days, was impeached for a second time on Wednesday over "incitement to insurrection".
Trump denied the ruling, insisting that he never wanted violence on US streets. Following the attack he urged supporters several times to refrain from violence in the days leading up to Biden's inauguration.