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White House officials resign, others consider quitting after assault on Capitol

Deputy US national security adviser, social secretary, deputy press secretary, 1st lady’s chief of staff step down; others said worried about what Trump may do without ‘guardrails’

In this file photo taken on August 8, 2019, White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham listens as US President Donald Trump speaks to the media aboard Air Force One while flying between El Paso, Texas and Joint Base Andrews in Maryland. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP)
In this file photo taken on August 8, 2019, White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham listens as US President Donald Trump speaks to the media aboard Air Force One while flying between El Paso, Texas and Joint Base Andrews in Maryland. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP)

In a sign of growing frustration in the hours following a riot at the US Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump on Wednesday, a number of White House aides were discussing a potential mass resignation, according to people familiar with the conversation.

However, some harbored concerns about what Trump might do in his final two weeks in office if they were not there to serve as guardrails when so few remain.

Stephanie Grisham, the first lady’s chief of staff and a former White House press secretary, submitted her resignation Wednesday, but declined to say what prompted her move.

Deputy national security adviser Matt Pottinger, White House social secretary Rickie Niceta and deputy press secretary Sarah Matthews also resigned, according to officials.

In this photo released by China’s Xinhua News Agency, Matt Pottinger, right, Special Assistant to US President Donald Trump and National Security Council (NSC) Senior Director for East Asia, speaks in Beijing, May 14, 2017. (Chen Jianli/Xinhua via AP)

More departures were expected in the coming days, officials said. But other aides indicated they were staying to help smooth the transition to President-elect Joe Biden’s administration.

The violence, coupled with the president’s tepid response, appeared to drive many Republicans to the breaking point after years of allegiance to Trump.

After four years with no shortage of fraught moments, Wednesday’s events quickly emerged as the nadir of morale in the Trump White House, as aides looked on in horror at the chaos at the Capitol fomented by Trump.

Trump has been single-mindedly focused on his electoral defeat since Election Day, aides said, at the expense of the other responsibilities of his office, including the fight against the raging coronavirus. There have been over 360,000 reported deaths as a result of COVID-19 in the United States since the start of the pandemic.

Trump on Thursday for the first time acknowledged his defeat in the November 3 election and announced there would be an “orderly transition on January 20th” after Congress concluded the electoral vote count.

Trump’s acknowledgement came after a day of chaos and destruction on Capitol Hill when his supporters stormed the Capitol, forced members into hiding and halted the formal congressional tally for more than six hours.

Supporters of US President Donald Trump, including member of the QAnon conspiracy group Jake A, aka Yellowstone Wolf (C), enter the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, in Washington, DC. (Saul LOEB / AFP)

“Even though I totally disagree with the outcome of the election, and the facts bear me out, nevertheless there will be an orderly transition on January 20th,” Trump said in a statement posted to Twitter by his social media director. Trump’s personal Twitter account had been locked by the social media company for posting messages that appeared to justify the assault on the seat of the nation’s democracy.

Trump added, “While this represents the end of the greatest first term in presidential history, it’s only the beginning of our fight to Make America Great Again!”

Trump on Wednesday had encouraged his supporters to march on the Capitol to protest lawmakers’ actions, and later appeared to excuse the violent occupation of the Capitol by the mob, which forced its way inside, clashed with police and ransacked offices.

Authorities said four people died during the violence. One woman was shot by an officer outside the House chamber, and three others died in “medical emergencies” during the occupation of the building, Washington, DC, police said.

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