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Azar in exit letter to Trump says Capitol riot could 'tarnish' legacy

Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar issued a harsh rebuke of President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump State Department appointee arrested in connection with Capitol riot Intelligence community investigating links between lawmakers, Capitol rioters Michelle Obama slams 'partisan actions' to 'curtail access to ballot box' MORE in his departure letter over the president's role in inciting last week’s violent riot at the Capitol.

Azar sent the White House a letter announcing his departure from the administration on Jan. 20, the day President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump State Department appointee arrested in connection with Capitol riot FireEye finds evidence Chinese hackers exploited Microsoft email app flaw since January Biden officials to travel to border amid influx of young migrants MORE will be inaugurated. It is standard practice for government appointees to send a departure letter at the end of an administration. In his, the HHS secretary said Trump’s evidence-challenged claims that the election was fraudulently stolen from him and the subsequent mob on the Capitol could “tarnish” the administration’s achievements.

“Unfortunately, the actions and rhetoric following the election, especially during the past week, threaten to tarnish these and other historic legacies of this Administration,” Azar wrote. “The attacks on the Capitol were an assault on our democracy and on the tradition of peaceful transitions of power that the United States first brought to the world.

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“I implore you to continue to condemn unequivocally any form of violence, to demand that no one attempt to disrupt the inaugural activities in Washington or elsewhere, and to continue to support unreservedly the peaceful and orderly transition of power on January 20, 2021," he added.

It had previously been reported by other news outlets that Azar was resigning over the riots effective immediately, but he is not and will continue to serve through the end of the Trump administration.

“With the pandemic raging, the continued need to deliver vaccines and therapeutics to the American people, and the imperative of ensuring a smooth transition to the Biden Administration, I have determined that it is in the best interest of the people we serve to remain as Secretary until the end of the term,” he wrote. 

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While Azar is not resigning early over last week’s deadly riots, which resulted in five deaths, it marks the latest broadside against the president from a member of his administration. 

Education Secretary Betsy DeVosBetsy DeVosCardona seeks to pivot from DeVos era at Education Senate confirms Biden's Education secretary Motorcade of Libyan interior minister attacked MORE and Transportation Secretary Elaine ChaoElaine ChaoDOJ declined to take up Chao ethics probe Parliamentarian strikes down Pelosi priority in aid package The Hill's Morning Report - Biden on COVID-19: Next year Americans will be 'better off' MORE both submitted their resignations over the mayhem, and bipartisan lawmakers have cast blame for the chaos on Capitol Hill at Trump’s feet. 

Trump has riled up supporters for weeks with disputed claims of widespread election fraud in the presidential race and incited the mob last week before it descended on Capitol Hill. 

The president told the raucous crowd “you have to show strength” and “if you don’t fight like hell you’re not going to have a country anymore.” The rioters proceeded to ransack the Capitol and interrupted a vote to certify the Electoral College results, sending lawmakers fleeing to secure areas.

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Trump became the first president in history to be impeached twice when the House this week passed a single article accusing the president of “willfully inciting violence against the Government of the United States.” The House previously impeached Trump in 2019 on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

Unlike the 2019 impeachment, which no GOP representative supported, 10 House Republicans joined onto the resolution this week, and while the timing of a Senate trial is still up in the air, some GOP senators have said they’re open to voting to convict Trump. 

Trump has defended his remarks to the mob, telling reporters Tuesday they were “totally appropriate.” He also released a statement later this week calling on Americans to “ease tensions and calm tempers.”

“In light of reports of more demonstrations, I urge that there must be NO violence, NO lawbreaking and NO vandalism of any kind,” Trump said. “That is not what I stand for, and it is not what America stands for. I call on ALL Americans to help ease tensions and calm tempers. Thank You.”

Azar did praise the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic — noting it rolled out “therapeutics and vaccines to the American public in record time” — reforming the health care system and tackling the opioid epidemic, among other things.

“Please allow me to conclude by thanking the more than 85,000 men and women at the Department of Health and Human Services,” Azar wrote. “If I have left this Department that I love a better place than I found it, I shall count my tenure a success.”