Jan 16, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Azar says deadly Capitol siege could "tarnish" Trump administration's legacy

Photo of a masked Alex Azar's face

Alex Azar. Photo: Jacquelyn Martin-Pool via Getty

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a resignation letter delivered to President Trump this week that the "actions and rhetoric" after the election and especially during last week's siege on the Capitol "threaten to tarnish" the outgoing administration's legacy, Axios confirmed Friday.

Between the lines: Azar is leaving the same day President-elect Joe Biden takes office, so his resignation effectively changes nothing. But he joins a list of other top Trump aides and officials who have condemned the president after last week's deadly riot.

  • All appointees must submit a resignation letter at the end of the administration, an HHS spokesperson told Axios.

What he's saying: In the letter, dated Jan. 12, Azar lauded what he called the administration’s “remarkable response” to the pandemic and other achievements.

  • But he also said “the actions and rhetoric following the election, especially during this past week, threaten to tarnish these and other historic legacies of this Administration.”
  • "The attacks on the Capitol were an assault on our democracy and on the tradition of peaceful transitions of power that the United States of America first brought to the world," he added.
  • "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,” Azar said in the letter, addressed to Trump.
  • “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.”

The big picture: Azar served through a tumultuous tenure as the pandemic ravaged the U.S. and the government faced obstacles in the deployment of vaccines.

  • His letter comes the same day Azar told NBC News there is no "reserve stockpile" of coronavirus vaccines despite announcing days ago that there were second doses being held back from the distribution network.
  • State governors have criticized the Trump administration for not delivering on its promise.

Read Azar's letter below.

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