Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao resigned following Wednesday’s violent riot at the nation’s capitol by predominantly White supporters of President Trump, reminding many advocates of her department’s consistent complicity in perpetuating police brutality and White supremacy in America.
In a statement on Twitter, Chao cited Trump’s decision to encourage a group of his supporters to storm the Capitol building, calling the siege “traumatic and entirely avoidable.”
“It has deeply troubled me in a way I simply cannot set aside,” she said.
It has been the honor of a lifetime to serve the U.S. Department of Transportation. pic.twitter.com/rFxPsBoh6t
— Sec. Elaine Chao (@SecElaineChao) January 7, 2021
Progressive politicians and pundits slammed the decision as disingenuous and self-serving, speculating that Chao was absolving herself of her responsibility to invoke the 25th Amendment, an obscure provision of the Constitution that sets into motion the removal of a president if the Vice President and a majority of the Cabinet declare a president unfit to serve.
At this late a stage, resignations help little beyond serving as late attempts at self-preservation.
If Sec. Chao objects to yesterday’s events this deeply, she should be working the Cabinet to invoke the 25th amendment – not abdicating the seat that allows her to do so. https://t.co/pUEaL04Wwf
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) January 7, 2021
Elaine Chao shows how a cabinet member can avoid having to make a decision on the 25th amendment: it’s not a resignation it’s a desertion.
— Philip Gourevitch (@PGourevitch) January 7, 2021
Even prior to her resignation, Chao’s tenure at US DOT was largely condemned by sustainable transportation advocates, not least for her failures to condemn racist policing which provides pretext for many of the harassment and murder of BIPOC by law enforcement. Under Chao’s leadership, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released a document at the height of this summer’s historic Black Lives Matter protests that endorsed the expansion of armed law enforcement in our national traffic safety efforts.
Chao also famously stood by Trump’s side at a press conference following the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., when he noted that there were “some very fine people” among the Neo-Nazis and White nationalists present at the rally, one of whom murdered counter-protester Heather Heyer in a deliberate vehicle ramming attack. No “deeply troubled” statement from the Secretary followed.
Elaine Chao stood literally next to Trump when he made his “very fine people” comment about the racists at Charlottesville, and did nothing. https://t.co/sT8KlEfyYl
— Aki Peritz (@AkiPeritz) January 7, 2021
Despite a typo in her initial tweet — believe us, we wish we could go back in time to January, 2020, too — representatives for the Department of Transportation have since confirmed that Chao’s last day in office will be on Friday. They have not responded to a request for further comment on her departure.