USDOT Secretary Elaine Chao to resign

Jan. 7, 2021
Sec. Chao is the first of the president's cabinet members to formally resign following the riot that occurred at the nation's Capitol building on Jan. 6.

Elaine Chao will resign as Secretary of Transportation effective Jan. 11, 2021, which is nine days before a new administration is set to be installed. She becomes the first of President Donald Trump's cabinet to step down as a result of the Jan. 6 breach of the Capitol building.  

Sec. Chao posted her resignation letter to U.S. Department of Transportation colleagues to Twitter, calling her role as secretary "the honor of a lifetime." 

Her letter referenced the Jan. 6 events where an armed mob briefly took over the U.S. Capitol Building, halting a joint session of Congress working to certify the electoral college results for the office of the president from the November election. Five people are reported to have died during yesterday's riot - one inside the building, three on the grounds and a Capitol Police officer who died Thursday from injuries - and many have laid blame at President Donald Trump's feet for stoking the crowd prior to its turn toward the Hill Complex.

"Yesterday, our country experienced a traumatic and entirely avoidable event as supports of the president stormed the Capitol building following a rally he addressed. As I'm sure is the case with many of you, it has deeply troubled me in a way that I simply cannot set aside," Sec. Chao wrote in her resignation.  

She continued, "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. I am hopeful that many of you will carry forward our vision to improve the lives of Americans through this department and beyond."

Sec. Chao's letter noted her commitment to making sure the Biden-Harris nominee for Secretary of Transportation, Pete Buttigieg, will have a smooth transition. 

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR-4), Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, released the following statement on Sec. Chao's resignation:

“In announcing her resignation, Secretary Chao stated that she was troubled by the traumatic and avoidable events that transpired at the Capitol yesterday. On that, she and I agree very much—and while I believe she could send a stronger signal by joining efforts to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove this dangerous President immediately, I thank her for making it clear to the American people as well as the dedicated DOT employees she led for the past four years that the President’s actions were untenable.  

“When it comes to the critical work at DOT, I’m counting down the days until I can get to work with President Biden, Secretary Buttigieg and the Democratically-led Senate on transformational legislation that not only finally addresses our country’s infrastructure crisis, but also tackles climate change and creates millions of jobs—something President Trump absolutely failed to do.”

Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO-6), Ranking Member on the same committee, said, "I want to thank Secretary Chao for her service to the Department of Transportation, our country and the American people. I also want to thank her for her constant professionalism and her friendship. She has been a champion of infrastructure and transportation safety, effectively leading the department over the last four years.”

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Updated 1/7/21, 5:50 pm to add T&I Committee leaders statements. 

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Group Editorial Director

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine and group editorial director of the Infrastructure and Aviation Group at Endeavor Business Media. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the editorial direction of the group and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.