Following Wednesday’s insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, 1,447 days after President Donald Trump was sworn in and exactly two weeks before he leaves, administration officials are choosing now as the right time to leave a ship that’s been sinking so long it’s already halfway to the ocean floor.
Former White House chief of staff and current special envoy to Northern Ireland Mick Mulvaney and Stephanie Grisham, the chief of staff for First Lady Melania Trump, led a wave of resignations Wednesday that Mulvaney said he expected to grow.
“We didn’t sign up for what you saw last night,” Mulvaney, who has been in the administration since February 2017, told CNBC Thursday. “We signed up for making America great again, we signed up for lower taxes and less regulation. The president has a long list of successes that we can be proud of.”
Mulvaney said he informed U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of his decision Wednesday. “Those who choose to stay, and I have talked with some of them, are choosing to stay because they’re worried the president might put someone worse in,” he said.
The former South Carolina congressman has been one of the longest-serving political appointees in the administration. He stayed in his job even after Trump repeatedly defended the white nationalists in Charlottesville in 2017, and despite the plethora of baseless allegations of election theft Trump made to incite yesterday’s events.
"The president is not a white supremacist,” Mulvaney said in 2019. “I’m not sure how many times we have to say that.”
Grisham, a former White House communications director and former press secretary who’s been with Trump since the earliest days of his 2016 campaign, resigned Wednesday afternoon.
"It has been an honor to serve the country in the White House. I am very proud to have been a part of Mrs. Trump's mission to help children everywhere, and proud of the many accomplishments of this Administration," Grisham told CNN in a statement.
Grisham, who was notable as press secretary only because she never held a single press briefing, defended Trump as a “counter-puncher” when he implied that late Michigan congressman and frequent Trump critic John Dingell had gone to hell.
In addition to Mulvaney and Grisham, White House deputy national security advisor Matt Pottinger resigned Wednesday afternoon due to Trump’s role in inciting the riots, Bloomberg reported. White House press aide Sarah Matthews and social secretary Anna Cristina “Rickie” Niceta also quit, according to multiple reports.
The vast majority of administration officials, however, have so far chosen to stay. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, who is married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, was reportedly weighing a resignation but so far hasn’t announced anything. Pottinger’s boss, national security advisor Robert O’Brien, was considering resigning but was persuaded to stay on, Bloomberg reported.
O’Brien praised Vice President Mike Pence, who was evacuated from the Capitol during the insurrection, in a tweet from his personal account.
State Department spokesperson Gabriel Noronha tweeted from his personal account that Trump “fomented an insurrectionist mob” and that Trump was “entirely unfit to remain in office and needs to go.
More, however, chose to anonymously snipe to reporters rather than quit or put their names on their criticism. The Washington Post quoted two anonymous administration officials who called Trump “a total monster” and “insane.” A senior Trump adviser told Politico after a day in which the GOP was also reeling from the loss of its Senate majority thanks to the Georgia runoffs: “This morning I would have told you the Republican Party is in shambles because of Donald Trump. Now the entire country is.”
And still others appeared to just give up. “I don’t want to talk to him,” a Politico source described as a Republican “close to Trump” told the website. “What am I going to say? This is one of those moments when I don’t know if I want to be involved.”