Alex Azar, the Health and Human Services Secretary, resigned earlier this week, citing the violent Capitol riot inflamed by President Donald Trump in his resignation letter obtained by NBC News.
Azar said his resignation would become effective on Jan. 20th — the same date he would have been leaving office once President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in. The letter was dated Jan. 12, almost a week after the riot.
He said that the attack — which left five people dead and many injured — and the president’s slow response to condemn it, threaten to “tarnish” the achievements the administration has made over the past four years. In particular, Operation Warp Speed, which led to the creation of two vaccines to combat the raging coronavirus pandemic.
“The attacks on the Capitol were an assault on our Democracy and the tradition of peaceful transitions of power that the United States of America first brought to the world,” he said. “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.”
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“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 added.
The Trump administration has been heavily criticized for its distribution strategy for vaccines. As of Thursday morning, out of more than 30 million vaccine doses distributed nationwide, just over 11 million doses have been administered, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The disease, which has shuttered businesses nationwide and sent the economy into a tailspin, has claimed the lives of more than 390,000 people since the end of February.
Azar joins several other Cabinet officials who have already resigned, including Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who both cited Trump’s role in egging on the rioters.