Elaine Chao to resign as transportation secretary in wake of US Capitol siege

Jan 7, 2021, 12:23 PM
Elaine Chao...
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 23: U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao speaks during the fourth meeting of the National Space Council at National Defense University at Fort McNair October 23, 2018 in Washington, DC. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence held the meeting to discuss the progress for President Donald Trump's plan for a Space Force. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced Thursday she is resigning from her position. 

She’s the first Cabinet member to leave in wake of President Donald Trump’s response to a mob of his supporters breaching the US Capitol.

“It has been the honor of a lifetime to serve the U.S. Department of Transportation,” she tweeted on Thursday.

In a statement to the agency she led, Chao wrote that she will resign on Monday and was “deeply troubled” by the events at the Capitol building.

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

She added that will help the Transportation Secretary-designate, Pete Buttigieg, in taking on the department.

A veteran of Republican administrations and the wife of the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Chao came into her post with a focus on reviving the nation’s crumbling infrastructure.

But an overhaul package to rebuild roads, bridges and highways never came, stalled by other legislative priorities including tax cuts and health care. The administration did unveil a $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan earlier in Trump’s administration, but the framework has faced obstacles in Congress.

A succession of White House-sponsored “Infrastructure Weeks” did little to advance the cause. The term has become a punch line for the administration’s ability to step on its own message with unforced errors or a President prone to inflammatory tweets or remarks.

Chao had until now remained a dutiful foot solider for the President, appearing at White House events and traveling the country to view administration-sponsored projects.

Unlike much of the administration, Chao came to her post with years of government experience. She served in both Bush administrations, acting as labor secretary for all eight years of President George W. Bush’s tenure.

Trump has eyed some Bush veterans skeptically, though isn’t known to have singled out Chao specifically.

Instead, it is her husband that has sometimes proved the awkward component in her relationship with Trump. The President has openly sparred with the Republican leader in the Senate over legislative priorities.

Chao had previously navigated the spats deftly. Standing alongside Trump in August 2017 in the midst of a dispute between the President and McConnell over health care, she was asked what she thought of the rift.

“I stand by my man,” Chao said, “both of them.”

This story is breaking and will be updated.

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Elaine Chao to resign as transportation secretary in wake of US Capitol siege