White House aides head for exits after chaos at Capitol

Multiple White House aides resigned Wednesday in the aftermath of violent riots at the Capitol involving supporters of President TrumpDonald TrumpCIA chief threatened to resign over push to install Trump loyalist as deputy: report Azar in departure letter says Capitol riot threatens to 'tarnish' administration's accomplishments Justice Dept. argues Trump should get immunity from rape accuser's lawsuit MORE, with additional departures expected in the coming days.

Stephanie GrishamStephanie GrishamMelania Trump says she was 'disappointed and disheartened' watching Capitol riots Trump resignations gaining steam GOP senators urging Trump officials to not resign after Capitol chaos MORE, the chief of staff to first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpMelania Trump bids farewell to Be Best in new video Garth Brooks, Joan Baez among this year's Kennedy Center honorees Melania Trump says she was 'disappointed and disheartened' watching Capitol riots MORE and former White House press secretary, was the first to announce her resignation. Deputy press secretary Sarah Matthews resigned a short time later, as did White House social secretary Rickie Niceta, a White House official confirmed.

“I was honored to serve in the Trump administration and proud of the policies we enacted. As someone who worked in the halls of Congress I was deeply disturbed by what I saw today," Matthews said in a statement. "I’ll be stepping down from my role, effective immediately. Our nation needs a peaceful transfer of power."


Grisham's statement did not specifically mention the violence on Wednesday, but she was reportedly moved to step down because of the events at the Capitol.

The resignations also extend to the White House National Security Council (NSC). Deputy national security adviser Matthew Pottinger and Ryan Tully, the NSC's senior director for European and Russian affairs, both stepped down as well, a former official familiar with the situation confirmed on Thursday. 

National security adviser Robert O'BrienRobert O'BrienWhite House aides head for exits after chaos at Capitol Top Melania Trump aide Stephanie Grisham resigns Trump national security adviser defends Pence MORE praised Pottinger on Twitter Thursday afternoon. O'Brien said asking Pottinger to serve as his deputy was one of his decisions.


O'Brien is among other aides reportedly considering resigning. He who broke with Trump Wednesday by tweeting his support for Vice President Pence stating that he could not unilaterally reject electors for President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenAzar in departure letter says Capitol riot threatens to 'tarnish' administration's accomplishments House Democrats introduce measures to oppose Trump's bomb sale to Saudis On The Money: Retail sales drop in latest sign of weakening economy | Fast-food workers strike for minimum wage | US officials raise concerns over Mexico's handling of energy permits MORE.

NBC News reported Transportation Secretary Elaine ChaoElaine ChaoAzar in departure letter says Capitol riot threatens to 'tarnish' administration's accomplishments READ: Departure letter from HHS Secretary Azar to Trump ICE acting director resigns weeks after assuming post MORE is also considering resigning. Chao is married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPelosi mum on when House will send impeachment article to Senate Democratic senator: COVID-19 relief is priority over impeachment trial The Hill's Morning Report - Biden asks Congress to expand largest relief response in U.S. history MORE (R-Ky.).

The wave of departures, combined with condemnations from some Trump allies, amount to a clear rebuke of the president's behavior on what may be the darkest day of his presidency.

After weeks of Trump falsely claiming that he had won the 2020 presidential election and that it was "stolen" and "rigged," thousands of his supporters arrived in Washington, D.C., on the day Congress was to certify the Electoral College results and affirm Biden as the next president.

Trump, at a rally on the White House Ellipse, further stoked the flames of conspiracy and urged his supporters to march to the Capitol and make their voices heard.

"You'll never take back our country with weakness," Trump said. "You have to show strength and you have to be strong. We have come to demand that Congress do the right thing and only count the electors who have been lawfully slated."

"I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically, make your voices heard today," he added.

A short time later, Trump supporters overwhelmed law enforcement outside the Capitol and breached the building. Lawmakers, staff, press and Pence were all evacuated or ordered to shelter in place. One woman was shot and killed in the mayhem.

Current and former White House officials pleaded with Trump to call on the rioters to stop or to condemn the violence. After two tweets calling for calm, which former aides deemed insufficient, and another lambasting Pence, Trump issued a video message in which he did not condemn the violence but told his supporters to "go home," while repeating his claims of election fraud.


"This was a fraudulent election, but we can’t play into the hands of these people," he said, further stoking the conspiracy that caused the violence in the first place. "We have to have peace. So go home. We love you. You’re very special. You’ve seen what happens. You see the way others are treated that are so bad and so evil. I know how you feel. But go home and go home in peace."

While Trump only has two weeks left in his term, his actions and the subsequent mob at the Capitol have spurred discussions about whether he should be removed from office before then.

CBS News reported there were preliminary discussions of invoking the 25th Amendment, which would require a majority of Cabinet officials and the vice president to sign off on removing Trump from office.

Several Democrats have also backed impeaching Trump again, though party leaders have tamped down that idea given the expedited time frame it would require, and it's unclear if enough Republicans would vote to convict the president in the Senate.

—Morgan Chalfant contributed to this report, which was updated on Jan. 7 at 12:21 p.m.