Education Secretary Betsy DeVos quits, cites Trump rhetoric

Riley Beggin Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Washington — Education Secretary Betsy DeVos of Michigan has become the second Cabinet secretary to resign a day after a pro-Trump insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

In a resignation letter Thursday, DeVos blamed President Donald Trump for inflaming tensions in the violent assault on the seat of the nation’s democracy.

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

“There is no mistaking the impact your rhetoric had on the situation, and it is the inflection point for me,” she wrote.

"We should be highlighting and celebrating your administration's many accomplishments on behalf of the American people," DeVos wrote to Trump. "Instead, we are left to clean up the mess caused by violent protesters overrunning the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to undermine the people's business.

"That behavior was unconscionable for our country."

She had condemned the rioters a day earlier on Twitter, arguing that "The eyes of America's children and students — the rising generation who will inherit the republic we leave them – are watching what is unfolding in Washington today. We must set a better example for them, and we must teach them the solemn obligations and duties that come with the title ‘American.” The peaceful transfer of power is what separates American representative democracy from banana republics.”

DeVos is a former chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party, and her family is a powerful force in GOP politics in the state and nationwide. Her husband, Dick DeVos, unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2006.

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao tendered her resignation earlier Thursday. News of DeVos’ resignation was first reported by the Wall Street Journal. It is effective Friday, according to the letter.

Chao and DeVos were among the few Trump Cabinet secretaries who nearly made it through the president's entire four-year term. The president has experienced turmoil and turnover in the Defense Department, State Department and national security operations as well as in some domestic departments. 

In a farewell letter to Congress earlier this week, DeVos urged lawmakers to reject policies supported by President-elect Joe Biden and protect Trump administration policies that Biden has promised to eliminate.

Before being appointed to lead the U.S. Department of Education, DeVos was an advocate for charter schools and school choice programs in Michigan and elsewhere. She has encouraged local expansion of private school choice programs, but no broad federal charter school legislation passed during her time in office when Republicans held a narrow majority in the Senate.

Under her leadership, the department rolled back Obama-era rules and implemented a controversial regulation that expanded the rights of students accused of sexual assault and harassment.

On Thursday night, Michigan's Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a vocal critic of DeVos, tweeted a photo of herself, wearing a shirt with a message to the country on it that said, "Sorry about Betsy DeVos."

However, former Attorney General Bill Schuette, a Republican, tweeted, "Betsy DeVos was an outstanding Secretary of Education. Job well done."

Associated Press contributed.